Peace commission warns of Constitutional Court battle unless lockdown is lifted
Durban – A Constitutional Court battle was looming if President Cyril Ramaphosa did not end the national Covid-19 lockdown, the National Peace Commission (NPC) said yesterday.
Durban businessman Peter Munns said the commission had sent a letter of demand to the president and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, in which it alleged that the implementation of the lockdown was “procedurally irregular and unconstitutional” and contrary to the government’s Batho Pele principles.
The organisation’s attorney, Thembinkosi Luthuli, said the NPC was formed in 2015 “to build social, cultural and racial cohesion in South Africa for the purposes of accountability and transparency on the part of all public servants”.
He said it represented “a wide sector of civil society” including religious, business and traditional leaders in the formal and informal sectors, as well as “those living in informal settlements who have been negatively affected by the decisions taken by the present government”.
“Extensive research has shown that there is clearly a conflict of interest and opinion on this Covid-19 virus and that it requires investigation and responsible action on the part of all governments,” Luthuli said in the letter.
“The minister of health, in particular, is requested to provide the reasons and justification for an extreme national programme of safety and security, when this was clearly a medical crisis that did not require the deployment of the military or the imposition of a police state.
“Furthermore, the state has imposed regulations that would normally be imposed under a State of Emergency and not a State of Disaster.”
In the letter Luthuli argues that the organisation has examined medical evidence provided by international scientists including Dr Tasuka Honjo, Dr Shiva Ayyudarai, Dr Judy Miskovits, Dr Rashid Buttar and Dr Sherri Tenpenny.
“Professor Knut Wittkowski, for 20 years the head of the Rockefeller University’s Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design, says that lockdown is the absolute worst way to deal with an airborne respiratory virus,” he said.
He added that Dr Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, said a lockdown prolonged the stay of the virus in the community
Luthuli said that on the basis of only 60 reported cases of Covid-19, a national State of Disaster had been declared, while the country’s more than 60 murders a day had not been dealt with as a priority.
“On the basis of more than 56000 reported deaths from Tuberculosis in 2019 and more than 18000 deaths from influenza in the same period, the schools and also all the churches, mosques, temples and places of religious worship were never closed. The military lockdown is extreme,” he said.
“On the basis of more than 550 informal settlements in KwaZulu-Natal alone, and increasing pollution and the need for food security and poverty relief – it is a decision that defies all basic logic or common sense or common decency to close essential areas of economic growth,” Luthuli said.
He said there seemed “to be no logical or justifiable reasons” for imposing the closures, and the president and the Cabinet were duty bound to provide explanations related to these concerns in compliance with the Constitution, The Bill of Rights and the Batho Pele Principles.
The group also demanded an explanation as to why the Zondo Commission, which has cost taxpayers more than R360million, had not led to any prosecutions.
“The need for transparency cannot be denied and the desperate need for accountability cannot be ignored,” the letter read.
NPC spokesperson Munns said that based on the information from medical experts listed in the letter, the lockdown did not make sense.
“We would like the government and Cabinet to be accountable for their actions. There are things that don’t add up. Too many people are suffering. This is the hunger games. We would like to see a judicial commission of inquiry into the lockdown,” he said.
Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko yesterday confirmed receipt of the letter.
“The Presidency is still studying the correspondence received from Luthuli Attorneys to understand the legal arguments set out therein. It will be responded to once this has been ascertained,” Diko said.
Rassool Snyman, the founder of the Anti-Treason Movement, said his organisation supported the action as the government had not consulted with citizens before imposing the lockdown.
Snyman said the National Command Council had been created outside of the parliamentary process and was assuming powers it was not entitled to.
“This lockdown was a political act rather than a serious health act. It does not address the core problem, which is the virus. Restriction of movement based on a virus has a class aspect of telling the poor to die in their small rooms,” he said.