Court bid to force government to disclose reasons for lockdown
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Pretoria - Business rights organisation Sakeliga has lodged a court application to compel the government to disclose its grounds for the state of disaster, disaster management regulations and lockdown levels.
The application forms part of a process, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, to obtain Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s records of decision-making regarding the lockdown and all disaster management regulations.
In terms of the Disaster Management Act, Dlamini Zuma, as minister of this portfolio, is the person responsible for enacting these regulations.
“The goalposts for when the restrictions must be lifted are constantly shifting. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s point of view this past Sunday, that the restrictions will continue until an acceptable number of people have been vaccinated, contradicts the earlier rationale that restrictions are a temporary step and only intended to flatten waves of infection,” said Piet le Roux, chief executive of Sakeliga.
According to him, this previous standard, as well as hospital capacity and number of deaths, are now inexplicably shifting to the background.
He said the shifting of goalposts, without transparency, was “detrimental to the social, economic and constitutional order”.
Sakeliga intends to disclose the information obtained through this process for the consideration of civil society and the general public.
“The drastic restrictions, their cost, and now the question of forced vaccination, are factors that must be examined with great care.
“The decisions that led to nearly 2 million more people being unemployed today compared to at the beginning of last year need to be thoroughly investigated.”
Le Roux added that Ramaphosa had not held a single media conference since the beginning of the lockdown period to answer questions about the government’s strategy.
“There is a veil of secrecy when it comes to making and amending decisions regarding restrictions. The court application is therefore aimed at forcing the person legally responsible for the decisions, namely Dlamini Zuma, to disclose her records of decision-making for public inspection.”
Le Roux said to justify her refusal to disclose the information to Sakeliga, Dlamini Zuma turned to the allegation that her decisions were protected by Cabinet privilege.
“However, this cannot be the case for all the information relevant to her decisions, as the law is clear that she must exercise her judgement in enacting regulations. Not everything that is relevant can be protected by Cabinet privilege.
“Sakeliga therefore requests the court to compel her to make available the records of decision-making, which are not protected by Cabinet privilege.”
Sakeliga wants to disclose andanalyse these records so that, if necessary, they can be used in public debate and possible legal action to limit the damage of current and future decisions regarding restrictions.
“One can probably do little about the damage that has already been done by poor decision-making, but the records can help put an end to harmful policies and prevent future damage.
“Businesses and consumers should and must know on what grounds they had to close their businesses for extended periods, could not go to work, lost their jobs and even why they – banally enough – were not allowed to buy or sell certain products such as hot chicken,” Le Roux said.
The minister now has the opportunity to submit opposing papers to the court.