Pressure works: Ramaphosa concedes there’s a “good argument” to ditch the NCCC

21 January 2022 - Days after the IRR delivered a petition to the Union Buildings calling for an end to the State of Disaster and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), President Cyril Ramaphosa conceded that there was a “good argument” to end the State of Disaster.

Days after the IRR delivered a petition to the Union Buildings calling for an end to the State of Disaster and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), President Cyril Ramaphosa conceded that there was a “good argument” to end the State of Disaster.

In a rare question-and-answer session with the media, Ramaphosa conceded: “There is a good argument to be put forward that now that we are where we are, should we not examine and look at other methods, other instruments that can be utilised? People have all the right to advocate for the dropping of the State of Disaster instrument. We are government, we’ve got to be very rational in everything that we do.”

IRR head of campaigns Gabriel Crouse welcomed this, noting that “after months of sending lawyer’s letters to seek evidence of any professionalism and rationality that may exist at the so-called ‘Command Council’, it seems to have finally dawned that the Command Council will go down, either by backing down or being taken down in court, soon”.

The IRR argues that the NCCC has run out of excuses to rule by decree so it should back down to save time and money. Equally, Ramaphosa’s statement suggests that until pressure was brought to bear he had not yet contemplated terminating the NCCC. This is an alarming state of affairs.

Responding to a question about opponents of the interminable “disaster” regulations, President Ramaphosa commented: “Maybe you are one of the lucky ones and your desires will be fulfilled soon and the NCCC will recommend to the cabinet that we should do that [end the State of Disaster]. If not, we will have a rational explanation to say why we should continue with the State of Disaster. So be patient – all things happen at the right time.”

Crouse responded: ”Two million jobs were lost under NCCC domination and we probably had the fastest sustained viral spread over the last 22 months, thereby spawning the Beta and Omicron mutations and achieving 80% pre-Omicron infection rates in Gauteng, among people over 50, according to a recent study. Lives and livelihoods have been lost at an unprecedented scale, but Ramaphosa says ‘all things happen at the right time’. Consolation should not come at the price of decisiveness or plain common sense.”

Crouse added that the IRR would guard against complacency and was prepared to drive the irrational NCCC to its logical conclusion, namely termination, but it also encouraged South Africans to reflect on the broader lessons of active citizenship.

“It is a basic theory of democracy that petitioners and civil society organisations provide probative and prohibitive limitations on power-abuse by government officials, but in democracies that fail that theory is not put into practice. South Africa finds itself in the tentative position of sometimes getting this right, but often getting it wrong, which is a reason to entrench and expand active citizenship while the basic norms of democracy, like regular elections which were recently almost denied, are still in place.”

He said the 20 000-plus who had now signed on to the IRR’s petition to disband the NCCC, end the State of Disaster and stop a “Command Council” from robbing power again, were not “the lucky ones” as the President characterised these, and other, active citizens.

“These are South Africans who appreciate that freedom is only preserved when citizens get involved. These are South Africans who know that democracy does not end when one votes, it only begins there,” Crouse said.

 
Media contact: Gabriel Crouse, IRR Head of Campaigns – 082 510 0360; gabriel@irr.org.za
Media enquiries: Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za

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