News analysis
Fireworks: not for you
  • New Year's Eve parties that actually see in 2021, and Christmas Eve services that actually stretch into Christmas day, are illegal in South Africa this year.
  • Curfews – which start well before midnight everywhere, not just in hotspot zones – allow no wiggle-room, lawyers say.
  • It's not just that you can't move around during the hours of curfew, you have to be home.
  • Trying to get around that by hosting a lock-in party is dangerous in multiple ways, and potentially financially ruinous if disaster strikes.
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If you go to a New Year's Eve party that includes a midnight countdown, you will be breaking the law. Ditto attending a midnight church service, in person.

But anyone hosting such an event will be risking more, as they lose their insurance cover for the duration of the event.

South Africa's curfew – in effect from 22:00 for hotspots and 23:00 everywhere else, until 04:00 every day – leaves no room for argument, lawyers say.

The curfew does not only stop you from moving around, but under current lockdown rules, everyone is also confined to "his or her place of residence".

You'd have a very hard time arguing that staying over at the home of a friend in order to see 2021 arrive makes that your temporary residence, lawyers say, though a few think it may be worth a try. If multiple people try to make the same claim for the same house though, during what was clearly a party, you would likely be facing trouble.

That holds equally true for a private religious gathering to mark the arrival of Christmas Day, though police and prosecutors (and neighbours who could report you to the police in the first place) may be more inclined to use their discretion for a religious gathering rather than a party.

While any attendee to a midnight event would be breaking the law, the person hosting it would be taking the greatest risk of all. An illegal act is grounds for refusing an insurance claim, so normal protection under homeowner's insurance may not hold, nor would household goods necessarily be covered.

The cost of a fire, theft, anything breaking, or a serious injury on the premises could be entirely for the account of the owner or renter – should they want to risk being reported for breaking lockdown by making a claim against insurance in the first place. 

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