IRR steps up pressure to end State of Disaster – Gabriel Crouse

Not clear which specific details and measures that are part of SoD are still needed to “contain the pandemic”

IRR steps up the pressure on President Ramaphosa to end State of Disaster

16 February 2022

The IRR’s legal team has given President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma until the end of the month to answer concerns delivered in writing on the never-ending state of disaster (SoD) and seemingly indefinite suspension of citizens’ civil liberties.

This forms part of the IRR’s campaign to disband the Command Council.

In his 2022 State of the Nation address, President Ramaphosa stated: “It is my intention to end the national state of disaster as soon as we have finalised other measures under the National Health Act and other legislation to contain the pandemic.”

That the President has clearly signalled his intention to end the SoD underscores the necessity and effectiveness of the IRR’s campaign – which has gained more than 20 000 signatures thus far.

However it is not clear to the IRR which specific details and measures that are part of the SoD are still needed to “contain the pandemic”, or why the unaccountable National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) must continue operating.

The most recent regulations state that citizens can be detained for two days should they have Covid-19 and are showing symptoms. The IRR wants to know how many people (if any) have been detained awaiting a warrant from a Magistrate as per these regulations. Can anyone in Cabinet or the NCCC satisfy a test that would justify this infringement of habeas corpus?

Furthermore, under the current regulations outdoor gatherings at sport stadiums are limited to 2 000 attendees. It is unclear what the estimated impact of this “containment” effort objectively is. Can a clear link be established between deaths and hospitalisations, should stadiums be allowed to fill to capacity? The IRR would expect the government to be on top of scientific evidence to support their position that despite super-majority recovery protection and minority vaccinated protection a deadly fifth wave is being “contained” by a closure of stadiums. However, evidence to support the notion that fans watching cricket, soccer or rugby outdoors would trigger a deadly fifth wave remains to be seen.

A rights-respecting liberal democracy such as South Africa cannot allow an indefinite state of irrational, illegitimate suspension of liberty. The burden of proof for a continued state of disaster, and the existence of a body such as the NCCC, rests on government – and they have failed to meet that bar.

Issued by Gabriel Crouse, IRR Head of Campaigns, 16 February 2022