Disband the Command Council

The Command Council is an unelected body of ANC cadres that has hijacked our democracy.

The National Coronavirus Command Council is an unelected super-legislator body. By using disaster management regulations, it can effectively create laws without parliamentary oversight. The Command Council has overseen South Africa for over 570 days and has created conditions that have led to major corruption. It is now clear that the Command Council is set up to last forever. We must stop this. Disband the Command Council and put power back in the hands of Parliament, now!

Letter to the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs dated 15 November 2021

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Disband the Command Council

The National Coronavirus Command Council is a super-legislator body, created by Cabinet and able to effectively create laws without proper parliamentary oversight. The Command Council has been in charge for over 560 days.

The Command Council is anti-democratic. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic there was an argument that extraordinary measures, which severely curtail human rights, could be justified in the face of a pandemic of unconfirmed lethality and infectiousness. The endless extension of the Command Council’s authority – even as cases, hospitalisations and deaths subside – subverts that argument.

The Command Council is set up to last forever. Without a fightback the Command Council will remain in charge so long as Covid-19 is in circulation, to any degree. Since at least as far back as the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 501YV2.0 (the South African variant) in December 2020, it has been clear that the virus is capable of “escape mutations”. The present scientific consensus remains that the most likely scenario is for the virus to go “endemic”, meaning it will continue to circulate in perpetuity, albeit with lower lethality through naturally and artificially acquired immunity.

All existing Covid-19 vaccines are non-sterilising, and evidence from highly vaccinated countries like Israel and city-states like Singapore indicate the present futility of “zero-Covid” targets. On the best estimates most South Africans have recovered from Covid-19, offering better protection than vaccination, but still the virus continues to circulate.

If the Command Council remains in place so long as the virus is around, then the Command Council will outlive us all, which is death to South Africa’s democracy. Short of Covid-19 extinction the Command Council has no plan to scrap itself. Only citizens can stop it.

The Command Council is anti-scientific. From its earliest moves, banning cigarettes and the sale of open-toed shoes, to the attempt by Command Council de facto “prime minister”, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to postpone elections indefinitely, appealing to “science” to justify counterproductive dictates has been an insult to evidence-based thinking. “Science” does not explain the Command Council’s curfew, nor mandatory masking outdoors, nor the issuance of “vaccine certificates” without also issuing “recovery certificates”, nor why funerals are currently limited to 100 people, but 750 people can meet indoors and 2 000 can gather outdoors for political rallies and other purposes.

The Command Council has made it illegal to spread Covid-19 disinformation, but its members, and the President, have been guilty of spreading disinformation without consequence.

The Command Council is against free enterprise. Private businesses have been radically transformed into minions of the state, which can only open and close their doors to do business as the state dictates. Over a million jobs have been lost, contributing to violent resentment in the population, which further undermines value-add opportunities.

The Command Council is an arm of the corrupt state. The Digital Vibes scandal indicates that the level of maladministration that South Africans have sadly learned to expect from national government has not been surgically removed from the pandemic (or endemic) response.

The Command Council prepares the ground for the National Democratic Revolution. The openly stated goal of the ANC and its alliance partners is the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) towards socialism and then communism, and the last “Umrabulo” ANC discussion document before the pandemic (or endemic) called for the South African Communist Party to “accelerate” the NDR.

The Command Council presides over a regime that erodes property rights by foreclosing the ability of landlords to evict tenants that refuse to pay rent. But most importantly, the Command Council’s relentless messaging campaign and flagrant abrogation of parliamentary norms introduces a “new normal” where South Africans become used to the idea that this is a democracy in name, and a Command economy in practice.

The Command Council presages the nationalisation of private healthcare. President Ramaphosa has described the government’s response to the pandemic, lead by the NCCC, as “the genesis of an NHI [National Health Insurance]” scheme. Nationalising private healthcare through an NHI scheme has always been a priority item on the agenda of Ramaphosa’s administration. This has been the case in spite of, or perhaps because of, demonstrated corruption that has accompanied government health interventions with deleterious effects for the most vulnerable South Africans.

The IRR has been a thorough and empirical critic of the NHI, which would eviscerate South Africa’s middle-class, weaken national health and destroy jobs. The IRR has proposed an alternative way forward that would limit government encroachment, promote better healthcare, stifle opportunities for corruption, and improve doctor-retention. More detail can be seen here.

However, if the NCCC is allowed to reign indefinitely, as it is currently set to do, we will move further away from pro-growth alternatives and instead will take a hard step towards putting all South Africans in the government’s collapsing health queue.

Parliament must amend the Disaster Management Act (DMA) to prevent this kind of situation from being repeated.

The NCCC’s ability to make up de facto laws that define how you live and do business would evaporate if the National State of Disaster was terminated. The fundamental problem is that the DMA allows the CoGTA Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to declare a State of Disaster and extend that State of Disaster indefinitely. The law must be changed.

Compare the DMA to limitations on a State of Emergency placed by the Constitution. A majority vote in Parliament, after open debate, is required to extend a State of Emergency beyond three weeks. To extend beyond three months, a supermajority of 60% in Parliament is required. This supermajority test must be met again every three months if the State of Emergency is to be extended further.

Experience shows that the powers of the NCCC to limit rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights is so extreme as to compare with what could happen in a State of Emergency. The test for extension of a Disaster should therefore be as stringent as for an Emergency. The DMA must be amended to reflect that.

Additionally, because the Constitution envisages that “disaster management” is a provincial competence, the extension of a National State of Disaster beyond the first three weeks should require the ascent of all nine provincial Premiers.

Furthermore, the Constitution lays out very explicit limits on how rights can and cannot be limited by an Emergency, but there is no parallel for a Disaster. Therefore, extending a Disaster beyond 90 days should also depend on the CoGTA Minister going to the Constitutional Court to prove her case that extension is absolutely necessary and is consistent with the Bill of Rights every time that an extension is sought.

Combine those tests of a Parliamentary supermajority, ratification of Premiers and confirmation by the Constitutional Court, and South Africans would have a much better chance of avoiding another endless NCCC attempt at human rights capture.

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