Johannesburg - Retired Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng yesterday questioned President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the national coronavirus command council’s (NCCC’s) response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Justice Mogoeng delivered the keynote address at the one-day virtual conference of the Forum of Institutions Supporting Democracy (FISD), which is chaired by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
According to the recently retired Chief Justice, Ramaphosa and Dlamini Zuma used a structure that is neither constitutional nor statutory, the NCCC, to effectively undermine people’s rights by extending the national lockdown since last year.
”Why have we allowed a structure that is neither constitutional nor statutory, a command council, and a minister of Cogta (Dlamini Zuma) and the president to interfere with our entrenched rights in this manner and to extend lockdowns as easily as they do and in circumstances where more accountability would have been experienced if the National Assembly was allowed to enjoy its constitutional rights?” he asked.
Justice Mogoeng suggested that citizens should insist on accountability and openness from elected representatives and public debate on Covid-19-related issues in the National Assembly.
He said South Africans should demand that the people’s representatives who have to extend what he referred to as “clear states of emergencies”.
”Are the people governing under the Constitution during the Covid-19 era or is the executive and the command council governing in terms of the Disaster Management Act? Do we have a forum for citizens to consider issues relating to Covid-19 openly in the National Assembly, is the National Assembly scrutinising Covid-19-related issues in public?” Justice Mogoeng asked.
In his address, Justice Mogoeng asked: “The question is, ‘Has Covid-19 had a negative impact on good governance and ethical leadership? Has there been corruption, actual or perceived, if so what has the effect of these been on our constitutional democracy?”
The conference was organised to tackle the need for collaboration on the promotion of good governance and ethical leadership in response to the impact of Covid-19 and corruption on the country’s constitutional democracy.
Justice Mogoeng said developments since the start of the pandemic in South Africa connote that Covid-19 and corruption have had a particular impact on the country’s constitutional democracy.
He continued: ”Did Covid-19 and the developments around it trigger the need for collaboration among chapter nine and allied institutions to address apparent lapses on good governance and ethical leadership in our constitutional democracy?”
Justice Mogoeng added that he was wondering why the Covid-19 crisis was not managed in terms of the Constitution, which is most protective of South Africans’ fundamental rights, which are also under foreseeable limitation.
He said South Africans were not asking pointed questions because they have been beaten into submission or into a line defined by the unexplained narrative, by the fear of being routinely demonised, investigated or lied about.
”Are we all afraid of the ever ready and shameless propaganda or smear campaign machinery? Has anybody questioned why clips or articles that question any of the fundamentals of Covid-19 and its preferred treatment are routinely being taken off media platforms and those unwanted views are being condemned by predictable instruments of smear and demonisation,” Justice Mogoeng asked.
The FISD includes the Offices of the Public Protector, Auditor-General, Commission for Gender Equality, SA Human Rights Commission, Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, Financial and Fiscal Commission, Independent Communication Authority of SA, Electoral Commission of SA, Pan South African Language Board and the Public Service Commission.