Did a silent Coup end Democracy in South Africa?

These are challenging times under lockdown in South Africa due to the world-wide Coronavirus pandemic. Everybody is in survival mode, checking news and social media for updates on all restrictions and spending week after week at home, pondering what is still to come.

But even if one pays tribute to the swift and radical measures imposed to curb the spreading of the disease, we might have overlooked the bigger picture in form of dark clouds that slowly built and are now setting the backdrop for an unrivalled doomsday scenario: The End of our Democracy!

Doesn’t it create shivers down your spine to read in the news about “lockdown”, “curfew” and “compulsory closure of businesses”? Combine that with over 70 000 soldiers patrolling the streets and especially the informal settlements, doesn’t it taste like bile and brings back pictures from the Apartheid era?

Just past the celebrations of the 26th Freedom Day we are exposed to circumstances, which are identical to those of martial law, which has never been invoked. Instead a state of disaster has been proclaimed by the President, which might be interpreted as emergency under the State of Emergency Act of 1997, but that one would only be allowed to last 21 days, and a National Coronavirus Command Centre (NCCC) has been installed, composing of a small selection of members of the National Executive Committee within the ANC as well as those hardliners, who want to see socialism in the country rather today than tomorrow and are well known for their biased value system as well as the disrespect for the Constitution of South Africa (ZAC)

What Dlamini-Zuma’s ex-husband, former President Jacob Zuma, could not achieve and after she failed to secure the ultimate power seat in the country by losing the elections to Cyril Ramaphosa has now become a very controversial reality. The essential constitutional rights of each South African and permanent resident of South Africa have been suspended, right in front of everyone under the hypocritical justification of curbing the pandemic.

The freedom of movement (s21 ZAC), the freedom of expression (s16 ZAC), the freedom to follow your profession (s22 ZAC) and to access and utilise your property (s25 ZAC), they all had now to succumb to NCCC rules and notices, rubberstamped by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). No law has passed, no parliament has been sitting and no authorised committee did research and prepare an act of the legislature to suspend the Bill of Rights as cast in stone in Chapter 2 of the South African Constitution.

But we are facing soldiers in the streets of South Africa enforcing citizen’s house arrest and a curfew between 8pm and 5am without anybody even raising an eyebrow? Don’t get me wrong, the measures seem to be effective and driven by the ultimate goal to overcome and survive the current pandemic, but they also go over and above what is necessary and implement rules and restrictions without benefit for the goal but in implementing new values and a new framework for society, which would have never passed parliament.

There is no difference between the actions of the NCCC and a Military Junta, the small group of ANC politicians with a shockingly controversial and law-defying past make now the rules, uncontrolled and unelected! Without any democratic legitimation and without any participation of the democratically elected opposition, the NCCC is now the Regime which runs our country, the whole country!

Endless attempts were made by ultra-conservative politicians and opinion groups to curb the consume of alcohol and tobacco and to get back to the stone ages with limiting sales for on-site as well as off-site consumption. But they failed as we live in the 21st century and the constitutional freedom saw to the replacement of the laws from the past. But now, a police minister stands in front of the camera and threatens the public not to return to what was democratically legitimised and codified in parliamentary laws and regulations, but to continue to implement bans and limitations outside the legislature. He goes even further and instructs the forces under his command to “be unkind” to lockdown breachers and domestic abusers, meaning to take the law in their own hands and to be judge and executioner on the streets, something that has last been seen practised by the SS squadrons roaming the streets of Germany in the Third Reich. Shocking?

The rights to work, access property and follow one’s profession have been suspended and it is up to the NCCC to allow which business or government department may open again and under which circumstances.

The restaurants are closed, but when they re-open they are supposed to do so with South African employees only, without the assistance of the millions of (mostly African) foreign workers, who kept the industry running while millions of unemployed South African either lack the skills or the motivation to actually got to work and rather play Lotto or watch telly at home.

Schools are about to open prematurely, endangering the health and the lives of our children. The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) has publicly accused the NCCCC and the Department of Education that they are “ … engaging in bad faith and this is undesirable when we are faced with a virulent and contagious pandemic. We can’t allow them to liquidate our workers and students.”. The answer? Ignorance, which in this case is far from being bliss and just defiance and the show of long lost power again.

Dlamini-Zuma stands publicly for the restrictions of movement and even disallowed to jog inside gated communities, or to walk your dog, a clear criminal offence committing cruelty against pets and to affect the health and well-being of a nation of active sport enthusiasts. Her love for power has long gotten the better of her and now she may reign without limitations, without democratic legitimation….and without consequences.

The restriction of sale of tobacco did cost SARS hundreds of millions of Rand urgently needed to fund the state coffers for the business rescue programs, but – again – the hopelessly outdated Minister Cele, still living in the past of his glory and respect, abused the powers of the NCCC to push for a stop of sales of all tobacco products, but without any benefit for the ultimate goal of fighting the virus. Why? Because he wanted to and he could!

And while talking of financial support for businesses and employees in distress, finally the self-appointed new government, the NCCC, shows its ugly, xenophobic face: The rules of the UIF Disaster Relief or any other SMME Rescue Plan clearly state that there is no assistance to our African guests, who live in this country, some of the them for decades. There will be no help for wholly or partially foreign-owned businesses. Yes, they had been lured to our shores to invest and create employment, but now the COVID Junta kills their businesses without access to any relief as you need to be 100% South African citizen-owned and employ more than 70% South Africans to qualify, no matter that the foreign owner and foreign employees have all contributed to the UIF for years and years in the past.

Another aspect of the lopsided approach by the NCCC can be seen in the spike of domestic violence, simply caused by what is commonly referred to as cabin fever. As the lockdown times can’t be used for home improvements or following one’s hobby or any outdoor activities, family members are forced to deal with each other 24/7 and besides Netflix, Showmax and the odd boardgame there is nothing to distract them. On the corresponding side the retail is losing millions in revenue, which could have been avoided by allowing hobby articles and home improvement tools and materials to join the arbitrary list of necessary products.

The current situation is unacceptable and the role and powers of the NCCC highly controversial, if not outright illegal and unconstitutional. The measures of the NCCC are arbitrary and often based on personal value perceptions of their members, lacking any participation of the political opposition or the public, while limiting constitutional rights of South Africa’s citizens and residents.

The NCCC must either be dissolved or re-staffed and proper rules and regulations passed by parliament as for its actions and operations need to be codified. As rightfully suggested by the Sakeliga, at least the Siracusa Principles should be adhered to, which deal with the restriction of the rights of people, including freedom of movement, and that these restrictions are:

  1. carried out in accordance with the law;
  2. strictly necessary;
  3. in the interest of a legitimate objective of general interest;
  4. no less intrusive and restrictive means available to reach the same objective; and
  5. based on scientific evidence and not drafted or imposed arbitrarily.

In Summary

The NCCC has pulled the wool over the eyes of our people, covering up what they really are: a last desperate attempt to keep the ANC’s inner circle in power outside any democratically established processes and creating a shadow regime under the false pretence of necessity to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Its measures and procedures are increasingly arbitrary and infringe the basic constitutional rights of its subjects, the people and residents of South Africa.

The NCCC should follow in its member composition the political proportions of parliament and restrictions of rights need at least to follow the Siracusa Principles or have to become the result of parliamentary processes, which observe the democratic as well as constitutional principles, which have guided the South Africa for the last 25 years, but if we do nothing and the new regime manifests itself any further, we will have sacrificed what we fought so hard for to obtain: *Our Democracy!*

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