President Cyril Ramaphosa says while government would prefer to avoid the need for any legal action against the COVID-19 measures it has taken, it accepts that citizens who are unhappy with the decisions have a right to approach the courts for any form of relief they seek.
Ramaphosa was addressing the nation in his weekly newsletter on Monday saying South Africa is the most politically engaged citizenry in the world.
Ramaphosa says since the start of this COVID-19 crisis, a number of people have exercised their right to approach the courts
He says this is a normal tenet of a constitutional democracy and a perfectly acceptable practice in a country founded on the rule of law.
“In the 7 weeks that have followed, there have been legal challenges from a number of individuals, religious bodies, political parties, NGOs and from business organisations against one measure or more of the lockdown provisions they were unhappy with. 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 urgency arguments dismissed and others have found other avenues for the relief they sought. Others have subsequently withdrawn their applications following engagement with government.”
Ramaphosa says just as government appreciates that most court applicants are motivated by the common good, so too should we 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.
“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.”
Ramaphosa says while there will continue to be, robust and strident critique of a number of aspects of governments national response to coronavirus, they have neither called for such critique to be tempered or for it to be silenced as it to adapt and to move with agility in response to changing circumstances and conditions.