Scientists increasingly believe that pangolin meat might have been part of the trigger for the deadly coronavirus. In this case the pangolin would have been bought in a typical Chinese market where illegally obtained wildlife has been an everyday element. But though that news has given new impetus to wildlife protection, it turns out that there is no proper legal protection for the pangolin in Zimbabwe. Cabinet ministers have not added it to the list of protected species whose possession is unlawful - despite being urged to do so in a recent judicial decision.
As the security forces of some African countries take abusive action against people under cover of COVID-19 lockdown regulations, human rights groups have begun to fight back. Prompted by complaints of serious constitutional rights' violations – beatings, torture and other humiliating treatment – Kenya’s law society has brought a petition to the courts, and a human rights organisation in South Africa has done the same. In Kenya the court has agreed to part of the petition, with other issues still to be argued at a later date, possibly even today, while the SA case could be called later this month.
In a major policy shift, the government of Sierra Leone this week announced that it had agreed to change the law and allow pregnant schoolgirls to continue attending school. The issue has divided society in that country, with the previous government taking a strong stand against mothers-to-be being permitted to go on attending lessons in mainstream schools. However, the new government that took office about two years ago has shown itself willing to make changes on the issue. Pressure to change the law has been mounting, most recently in December 2019, with a decision of the ECOWAS Court holding that the ban was discriminatory and should be scrapped.
The case of a heavily pregnant woman accused of stealing at a shopping centre has given one of Malawi’s judges the chance to re-state the law on sentencing first offenders and pregnant women. The judge quoted international law on the subject, as well as Malawi’s own legislation and prison inspection reports, some of which she had written herself. She pointed out that the country’s prisons did not have proper health care facilities for dealing with pregnant women or infants and that the infant and maternal mortality rates in prison were a matter of concern.
One of Uganda’s most contentious laws has come under fire by that country’s constitutional court. A particularly repressive section giving the police power to prohibit all public gatherings and protest has been declared unconstitutional and the court’s majority took the opportunity to criticise the way police hound and harass any political gathering not called by the ruling party.