South Africans’ civil liberties remain in limbo – time to end the NCCC

4 February 2022 - As South Africans try to rebuild their businesses and the economy after over two years of lockdowns, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) continues to exist; minutes of meetings are not available, discussions are not made public, and the powers granted to it by the continuing State of Disaster mean that it could, at any time, radically ratchet up state controls over people’s lives.

As South Africans try to rebuild their businesses and the economy after over two years of lockdowns, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) continues to exist; minutes of meetings are not available, discussions are not made public, and the powers granted to it by the continuing State of Disaster mean that it could, at any time, radically ratchet up state controls over people’s lives.

More than 20 000 people have signed on to support the IRR’s petition to end the NCCC – we reiterate our call to President Ramaphosa, and Parliament, to respect the Constitution, and South Africans’ hard-won liberties, and to disband the NCCC with immediate effect.

IRR Head of Campaigns Gabriel Crouse said: “Under public pressure the Command Council and cabinet have repealed most of the disastrous regulations, but now is no time to be complacent. The dragon of rule-by-decree has merely retreated into its lair, it has not been terminated. And as long as it remains in place there is a block to parliamentary scrutiny into how Covid-19 money has been spent, or misspent.”

Writing on BusinessLive this week, Professor Shabir Madhi, dean of the faculty of Health Sciences and professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, said: “The continued management of Covid-19 as a national crisis to justify the continued enactment of the State of Disaster Act, which enables the national coronavirus command council to decide on regulations that are often no longer fit for purpose, is unjustifiable.”

Professor Madhi also advocates for the dropping of all other restrictions, arguing that a return to normality is critical to the “mental wellbeing of South Africans, the education of children and allowing students to develop to their fullest capabilities on campuses”.

Said Chris Hattingh, IRR Deputy Head of Campaigns: “The NCCC serves effectively as a shadow Cabinet, freely operating beyond the oversight that Parliament and a free press should be able to extend over any government body.

“That government continues to extend the state of disaster, and to maintain the NCCC, indicates a desire to maintain any measure of greater state power, using any and all possible justifications and excuses. This is no way for an ostensibly rights-respecting government to act.”

The IRR challenges all South Africans and civil society organisations to take up the fight for their constitutional rights and to hold the powers that be to account. The burden of proof rests always on those who would encroach on and suspend liberty – those keeping the NCCC and state of disaster in place are unable to reach that bar.


Media contacts: Gabriel Crouse, IRR Head of Campaigns – 082 510 0360; gabriel@irr.org.za
Chris Hattingh, IRR Deputy Head of Campaigns – 083 600 8688; chris@irr.org.za
 
Media enquiries: Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za

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