Government has faced 116 legal challenges to lockdown

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says the government has had to balance saving lives with saving livelihoods during the lockdown.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says the government has had to balance saving lives with saving livelihoods during the lockdown.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

The government has received more than 100 legal challenges against its coronavirus lockdown and regulations since they were introduced almost three months ago.

Co-operative governance & traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told a plenary session of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday that litigation was one of the challenges the government had to deal with during the fight to contain the  spread of the virus.

The NCOP was debating government's response to the pandemic.

Dlamini-Zuma's spokesperson Lungi Mtshali later told SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE that in fact there had been 116 cases against the state. Mtshali said 84 of the cases had been finalised and 32 were still outstanding.

Mtshali said Cogta had been cited in 55 of the cases while the rest related to other government departments.

No details were provided.

Dlamini-Zuma told the session that government had faced “more than 90 cases”, with some settled out of court, government winning some but losing others, and some were still ongoing.

“Interestingly, now there are those who are saying we should not have used the law we have used and we should have gone for the state of emergency. Others have said everything we have done is unconstitutional.

“On the other hand, there are those who are saying we are reckless, we have moved too fast, we shouldn't have moved from level 4 to level 3 and we shouldn't have opened the schools. So it's an interesting combination,” she said.

Dlamini-Zuma outlined  government's response to Covid-19, starting from when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced there would be a lockdown and how decisions were made from drafting regulations to moving from one alert level to the next.

She emphasised how the situation could have been worse had government not taken  the measures it did at an early stage and constituted national, provincial and district command councils.

Dlamini-Zuma said they had to balance saving lives with saving livelihoods.

“That's why we are gradually opening up the economy and matching that with a readiness of the health services.

“We moved from the hard lockdown [level 5] to now at level 3, where we have pretty much opened up most of the economy, and we are going to enhance level 3 where more parts of the economy are going to be open, as the president announced. But at the same time we have to stick to strict protocols to still minimise the spread of the virus,” she said.

The minister said through the various levels, the government had carefully listened to the challenges and proposals submitted.

“We have listened to the people. There are challenges that are raised by the communities which we may have overlooked because this is the first time we are dealing with this.

“As the president said, it's like crossing a river. You feel it as you cross, sometimes you slip and falter, sometimes you find firm ground, so we have been very flexible. Our regulations have been changing and are amended according to the challenges we face.”

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