'Concerned citizens' off to court to challenge lockdown regulations

21 May 2020 - 13:57
By Nomahlubi Jordaan
The group is challenging the constitutionality of the national coronavirus command council. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander The group is challenging the constitutionality of the national coronavirus command council. File photo.

A group of “concerned citizens” has filed an urgent application at the high court in Cape Town challenging the constitutionality of the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) and the validity of the lockdown rules.

“Each of us have had our freedom curtailed by the regulations. We no longer enjoy the freedom to move around as we please, to eat and drink what we want, to work and study as usual and to visit our friends and families,” the group said in a statement.

The group comprises students at the University of Cape Town, a civil servant, a media intern and a data analyst. They are Mpiyakhe Dlamini, Duwayne Esau, Tami Jackson, Lindo Khuzwayo, Mikhail Manuel, Neo Mkwane, Scott Roberts and Riaan Salie.

Respondents in the matter include President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ministers of co-operative governance & traditional affairs, trade & industry, the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) and the National Disaster Management Centre.

“We the applicants, are ordinary citizens who have done our best to continue living, studying, working  and functioning during the lockdown and the subsequent level 4 restrictions,” said Duwayne Esau, a student at the University of Cape Town, in an affidavit.

“However, the president's address of 13 May 2020 has made it clear that the level 4 restrictions which are barely different from the initial lockdown in the extent of their limitations, will continue in full force in significant parts of the country [including the Western Cape which has the highest number of reported Covid-19 related deaths in a province].”

The group argues that the regulations have affected human dignity.

“One of us was unable to attend the funeral of his grandmother in another province. A number of us have serious concerns about the financial security of our families as firms go under and millions lose their jobs as a direct result of the regulations.

“The regulations have allowed the state to insert itself into the most private, sacred parts of our lives. No ordinary person in our country can escape the restrictions,” read the statement.

In its court papers, the group says the rules that relate to time limits and forms must be dispensed with.

They also want the court to declare the NCCC inconsistent with the constitution and the Disaster Management Act.

“It is clear from statements made by the president that a body called the NCCC has taken critical decisions in respect of our country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which have far-reaching consequences for the freedom and dignity of South Africans. The NCCC has, for example, previously decided what ‘level’ of lockdown we are in, and whether or not the lockdown should be extended,” the group said.

They argued in court papers that there was no information on how the NCCC was constituted, who its members were and what the membership terms were.

The group said its case was about making sure that the decisions made by government were made by the “correct” people, and that the laws promulgated subsequent to those decisions were lawful.

“We are not bringing this application because we oppose the government for political reasons, or because we think that preventing a public health crisis is unimportant. Rather, we are taking a stand as South Africans who are deeply committed to our constitution and its vision for open, transparent governance in accordance with the rule of law. This is an act of patriotism.”