President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday stated that while government would prefer to avoid the need for any legal action against it, South Africans who are unhappy with government regulations guiding the national lockdown have a right to approach the courts for any form of relief they seek.
He said this was a normal tenet of a constitutional democracy and a perfectly acceptable practice in a country founded on the rule of law.
He addressed the nation in his weekly column saying since the start of the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown, a number of people – including individuals, religious bodies, political parties, nongovernmental organisations and business organisations – have exercised their right to approach the courts, challenging lockdown regulations.
“We have checks and balances in place to ensure that every aspect of governance is able to withstand constitutional scrutiny. Where we are found wanting, we will be held to account by our courts and, above all, by our citizens. Besides our courts, our Chapter 9 institutions exist to advance the rights of citizens, as do the bodies tasked with oversight over the law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Ramaphosa explained that there had been, and would continue to be, criticism of the country’s national response to Covid-19, from the data modelling and projections, to the economic effects of the lockdown, to the regulations.
He maintained that government had consistently relied on scientific, economic and empirical data in implementing regulations to guide the Covid-19 response and stressed that government aimed for consultation and engagement.
He explained that some had approached the courts on the basis of the urgency of their cases and had their urgency arguments dismissed while others had found other avenues for the relief they sought. Others have subsequently withdrawn their applications following engagement with government.
He noted that constructive criticism had helped government adapt and change responses to changing conditions.
“We want all South Africans to be part of this national effort. The voices of ordinary citizens must continue to be heard at a time as critical as this. The coronavirus pandemic and the measures we have taken to combat it have taken a heavy toll on our people. It has caused huge disruption and hardship. Although we can point to the progress we have made in delaying the transmission of the virus, there is still a long way to go. The weeks and months ahead will be difficult and will demand much more from our people,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the decisions taken by government were made in “good faith” and were meant to advance and not harm South Africans’ interests.