Help us end this lockdown crisis
14 May 2020
Today, the DA announced the court action we are taking to end the national hard lockdown that is tearing our society and economy to pieces.
This afternoon, our lawyers will file papers in the High Court challenging the rationality of three separate lockdown-related decisions: the night curfew, the restrictions on e-commerce and the limited 3-hour window for exercise. These cannot be justified and should be immediately reversed.
Tomorrow, our lawyers will be filing court papers challenging the constitutionality of the Disaster Management Act. Because if the Act does not meet constitutional muster, it means the decisions taken by the National Command Council under this Act are not valid.
This is an extremely important case, because it speaks to one of the most crucial principles in our democracy, the separation of powers. We have an executive branch of government (cabinet) and a separate legislative branch (parliament) for very good reason.
The State of Disaster we are currently under, governed by the Disaster Management Act, has zero provision for oversight. The secretive NCC answers to no one.
A State of Emergency, which confers sweeping executive power and is a further step up from a State of Disaster, has parliamentary oversight. So there is no logical reason that a State of Disaster would not have this. This surely could not have been the intention of the authors of the Disaster Management Act.
But right now, because of this lack of oversight, the executive is effectively doing the job of writing our laws and regulations as they please, bypassing all the debate and possible opposition that would have happened in parliament.
We have to fight this, because from here our democracy finds itself on a very slippery slope.
The DA will be asking the court to apply the same oversight provisions to the State of Disaster as to the State of Emergency. Without this oversight, petty, power-drunk, would-be authoritarians have free reign to take irrational decisions that destroy lives.
We are asking South Africans to assist us in this fight to protect our democratic freedoms. We have to do this, and we have to do this now.
South Africa cannot afford another two weeks of hard lockdown. It is destroying thousands of businesses and millions of jobs and lives.
We must fight back against being imprisoned by a night curfew enforced by armed soldiers and against the slew of irrational, petty regulations that do nothing but kill businesses, destroy jobs and turn decent people into criminals.
We must question the constitutionality of having these decisions passed down by a secretive sub-group of the Executive with no clearly defined authority.
The dual purpose of the initial 3-week national hard lockdown was to buy time to prepare hospitals (raise the line) and find a better way to slow the spread of the virus (flatten the curve).
When the President announced the 2-week extension to the initial hard lockdown, the DA warned it would be an economic disaster, and we were right.
The past 4 weeks have already baked into our economy a depression that will take a generation to recover from.
President Ramaphosa’s speech last night offered no evidence that he understands that this indefinite national lockdown is a tragic and costly mistake, no evidence that he is willing or able to end it swiftly.
The President knows as well as I do that a surge in infections is coming, whether we lockdown or not.
South Africa needs to make the best possible use of the resources of the state, to save lives. Instead of the state locking up soup kitchen workers and achar sellers, let us rather focus their attention on finding people who are at real risk and helping them to isolate.
Those with co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertension are vulnerable and should remain locked down. Many of them cannot do so where they live, and the state can play a crucial role.
Let us put on our masks, wash our hands, keep some space around us, and then go out there and try and rescue what we can of our economy so that people can earn a living and feed their families and so that we can continue to fund and grow our healthcare system.
The threat posed by this lockdown crisis is so much greater than the threat of the virus, that we have no choice but to end the hard lockdown now and start our economy up.
And so the DA is asking people to help fund this legal process through a small contribution. Perhaps people have been feeling powerless to help. Now they can go to our website (da.org.za) or our Facebook page and contribute to our legal fight back.
There they can also co-sign my letter to the President asking for the hard lockdown to be lifted.
If the President is unable to make this decision, then help us make it for him. It is in South Africa’s interest that we succeed.
Issued by John Steenhuisen, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 14 May 2020