Reflections on the Role of the Judiciary during the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the pandemic, courts have played a vital role in ensuring the constitutionality of state action especially in cases where emergency legislation and excessive emergency measures were challenged. A common thread that has emerged from such constitutional challenges is the strain that the pandemic has put on public trust in the executive and the separation of powers between government branches. Because executive orders limiting the exercise of fundamental rights raise complex legal questions for which there is no judicial precedent, this paper reflects on the challenges faced by African domestic courts in protecting the terrain of the legislature and the executive.While some states have granted leeway to executive-branch officials on questions of statutory interpretation, others were quick to interfere with governments responses to the pandemic. Thus, the crux of this discussion is whether public trust is reinforced through judicial deference to other branches or judicial scrutiny.