Lockdown priority is to save lives, assures President Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa. GCIS.

As gov­ern­ment remains inun­dat­ed by pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion chal­leng­ing cer­tain pro­vi­sions of the Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Act, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa has reit­er­at­ed that the pri­or­i­ty of the lock­down reg­u­la­tions remains that of sav­ing lives. 

In his week­ly online let­ter to the nation, the Pres­i­dent said the State’s every deci­sion is informed by the need to advance the rights to life and dig­ni­ty as set out in the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Since the start of the cri­sis, sev­er­al NGOs, pri­vate cit­i­zens, busi­ness organ­i­sa­tions, reli­gious bod­ies and polit­i­cal par­ties approached courts across the coun­try chal­leng­ing aspects of the lock­down.

“Some have suc­ceed­ed in their legal chal­lenges and some have not. Some had approached the courts on the basis of the urgency of their cas­es, had their urgent argu­ments dis­missed and oth­ers have found oth­er avenues for the relief they sought. Oth­ers have sub­se­quent­ly with­drawn their appli­ca­tions fol­low­ing engage­ment with gov­ern­ment,” the Pres­i­dent said.

Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa said gov­ern­ment had 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.

There has been, and will con­tin­ue to be, robust and stri­dent cri­tique of a num­ber of aspects of government’s nation­al response to Coro­n­avirus, from the data mod­el­ling and pro­jec­tions, to the eco­nom­ic effects of the lock­down, to the reg­u­la­tions, he said.

“As gov­ern­ment, we have nei­ther called for such cri­tique to be tem­pered or for it to be silenced.

“To the con­trary, crit­i­cism, where it is con­struc­tive, helps us to adapt and to move with agili­ty in response to chang­ing cir­cum­stances and con­di­tions. It enrich­es pub­lic debate and gives us all a broad­er under­stand­ing of the issues at play.

“We have con­sis­tent­ly main­tained that we rely on sci­en­tif­ic, eco­nom­ic and empir­i­cal data when it comes to mak­ing deci­sions and for­mu­lat­ing reg­u­la­tions around our Coro­n­avirus response. To the great­est extent pos­si­ble under these chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances, we aim for con­sul­ta­tion and engage­ment. 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,” he said.

The Pres­i­dent con­ced­ed that while progress had been made delay­ing the trans­mis­sion of COVID-19, the virus had caused huge dis­rup­tion and hard­ship.

“There is still a long way to go. The weeks and months ahead will be dif­fi­cult and will demand much more from our peo­ple.”

The pan­dem­ic will there­fore con­tin­ue to place an enor­mous strain on soci­ety and insti­tu­tions,” he wrote.

He added: “As we nav­i­gate these tur­bu­lent waters, our Con­sti­tu­tion is our most impor­tant guide and our most val­ued pro­tec­tion. Our robust democ­ra­cy pro­vides the strength and the resilience we need to over­come this deep cri­sis.”

Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa added that while gov­ern­ment appre­ci­ates that most court appli­cants are moti­vat­ed by the com­mon good, the pub­lic should recog­nise that the deci­sions tak­en by gov­ern­ment are made in good faith and are meant to advance, and not to harm, the inter­ests of South Africans. – SAnews.gov.za

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