CoCourt to hear arguments on direct access for DA's challenge to Disater Act
Cape Town - The Constitutional Court has agreed to hear argument as to whether it should grant direct access to the Democratic Alliance to hear the official opposition's challenge to the legality of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
The DA has to submit its arguments for direct access by Friday, in papers of no more than 15 pages, according to a directive issued by the court.
The court directed minister of cooperative governance Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa to submit their representations, of the same maximum length, as to why direct access should not be allowed, by the following Friday.
DA leader John Steenhuisen welcomed the directive and said the president and minister were opposing direct access to the highest court in the land in a bid to delay clarity being reached on the legitimacy of the body established to steer government's response to the Covid-19 crisis.
The party is challenging the constitutionality of the Disaster Management Act, in terms of which President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national disaster in May and imposed a lockdown considered one of the most draconian anywhere introduced in response to the pandemic.
"If the DA is refused direct access, we will need to first challenge the Disaster Management Act in the High Court, which opens up scope for an appeal to the high court’s findings," he said.
This would then mean that months would pass before the Constitutional Court has the final say on the matter.
"In the meantime, South Africa’s fate is being determined by the NCCC, a secretive council of questionable legitimacy that is making irrational decisions without executive oversight," Steenhuisen said.
"Government is effectively usurping the legislative role, thereby disregarding the separation of powers, which is the foundation of a constitutional democracy."
Opposition parties and some members of the legal fraternity and civil society contend that the NCCC was not created on sound legal ground. If the DA's legal challenge were to succeed, the council's decision would be rendered invalid.
"NCCC decision-making to date has resulted in one of the world’s longest and most irrational hard lockdowns. This has destroyed millions of jobs and lives, thousands of businesses and wasted billions in tax revenue, without managing to keep control over the spread of the virus," Steenhuisen said.
He argued that the government has effectively heaped economic misery on top of the health crisis.
"It has brought on the worst of both worlds – both health and economic disaster – and turned decent people into criminals. This situation needs to end, and soon. South Africa is in deep trouble."
African News Agency (ANA)