SAPRA Director’s Report – 2020

“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world, yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise. We tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away.” Albert Camus – “The Plague” (1947)

On 5 March 2020 the first case of acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was reported in South Africa. On 15 March President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster.

On 20 March SAPRA issued a directive to its Marriage Officers to avoid all non-essential travel, observe health protocols, and cancel all pending appointments to solemnise marriages in the Republic until further notice.

On 23 March President Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would begin a 21 day lockdown on 27 March.

Since March, SAPRA has assisted numerous Pagans seeking information on and referral to:
1. Accessing COVID-relief grants, including:
(a) Care Dependency and Temporary Disability Grants,
(b) Unemployment Insurance Fund Coronavirus Covid-19 Relief Benefits, and
(c) COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grants.
2. Security of Tenure, including:
(a) unlawful evictions, and
(b) referral to the Rental Housing Tribunal for both owners and tenants.
3. Labour Matters, including:
(a) access to relief benefits,
(b) unfair dismissal, and
(c) referral to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

SAPRA has attempted to provide Pagans generally with information about, and access to, COVID-19 assistance and support organisations, including emergency hotlines for domestic violence, Childline and Lifeline, and access to local food banks.

In July SAPRA provided guidance on applying for education exemption and homeschooling to parents unwilling to accept the very real risk of coronavirus contagion to their children or members of their family as a consequence of sending their children back to school.

In addition to ongoing assistance and referral, between July and December, SAPRA has also attempted to source and provide access to accurate peer-reviewed scientific information on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the necessity for avoidance health protocols, and information on the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines.

As 2020 draws to a close and our country returns to an amended Level 3 lockdown, the members of SAPRA’s Executive Committee offer our sincere condolences to everyone who has been affected by this pandemic, to those who have lost their jobs, their homes, and beloved family members and friends to infection.

SAPRA would like to encourage South African Pagans to continue to observe COVID health protocols – wear a mask when in a public space, observe social distancing, avoid gathering in large crowds whether indoors or outdoors, and be mindful at all times of the suffering of their fellow citizens. Assist others where you can, however you are able.

During a time such as this one, everyone needs to have access to certainty (as much as there can be) in order to make informed decisions. This virus does not care if you don’t believe in it. Take care.

Remember, the Renaissance took place in a time of plague.

Damon Leff
Director: South African Pagan Rights Alliance