Lockdown regulations not meant to harm citizens - Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa.
Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: GCIS

The decisions government take in response to the coronavirus are in good faith and not meant to do harm. This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa who, in his weekly newsletter, responded to the growing criticism of government’s regulations, some of which have been challenged in court.

He said the government welcomed the constructive criticism which enriched public debate and gives a broader understanding of people’s views.

“Just as government appreciates that most court applicants are motivated by the common good, so too should we recognise that the decisions taken by government are made in good faith and are meant to advance, and not to harm, the interests of South Africans,” Ramaphosa wrote. “Our foremost priority remains to save lives. Our every decision is informed by the need to advance the rights to life and dignity as set out in our constitution.”

Some of the criticism the government received during the lockdown were about what people can buy and not buy from clothing shops, arresting citizens for trying to make a living and the brutality by law enforcement officers, like the one which resulted in the death of Collins Khosa in Alexandra, northern Johannesburg.

The DA and the Freedom Front-Plus have also both challenged, in court, the “Draconian” regulations the government has enforced since declaring the state of national disaster and subsequently lockdown almost two months ago. In their separate court actions, the parties have called for government to end the lockdown and are also challenging the National Disaster Management Act which they argue gives the government too much unchecked power.

Ramaphosa said he could not stand in the way of anyone, even as president, as it was their constitutional right to approach the courts whenever they were dissatisfied with the government’s decisions. He said that was one way of holding the government accountable. “While we would prefer to avoid the need for any legal action against government, we should accept that citizens who are unhappy with whatever action that government has decided on implementing have a right to approach our courts for any form of relief they seek. This is a normal tenet of a constitutional democracy and a perfectly acceptable practice in a country founded on the rule of law,” Ramaphosa said.

“We have checks and balances in place to ensure that every aspect of governance is able to withstand constitutional scrutiny. Where we are found wanting, we will be held to account by our courts and, above all, by our citizens. Besides our courts, our Chapter 9 institutions exist to advance the rights of citizens, as do the bodies tasked with oversight over the law enforcement agencies."

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