The NCCC & the question of transparency in government | Vote of confidence
Written by Wendy Nyoni on 12th May 2020
Is the government holding its card close to its chest with communication?
Opinion piece by: Ayanda Sishi
On the #voteofconfidence on The Best Drive with DJ Sabby, the team spoke about advocates Nazeer Cassim SC, Vuyani Ngalwana SC and Erin Richards taking the government to the courts because of the lack of transparency in the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC). The council consists of the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, cabinet ministers, scientists, epidemiologists and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). They are being taken to court over the lack of transparency when it comes to how the NCCC functions and where the limitations of power lie in the NCCC. Already we know, through corruption, there has been a trust deficit with the government and the citizens of this country and the government cannot afford to falter during this time. So the question here is, is the government being forthright with the information given to us and what are the powers of the NCCC.
The process of consultation and due diligence was shown when the president of the country consulted with opposition parties before deciding to lock down the country due to the threat of COVID-19. This decision was not only accepted by all opposition parties, but it was a decision that was praised because it was made in the spirit of consultation with other opposition parties in parliament. Over the course of the month, we have seen a steady decline in the information from the government when it pertains to the lockdown and various aspects of life. This includes the tobacco ban, whether or not schools will open and the troubles with SASSA. Now, the NCCC and the functions of the council have been bought to question by the advocates mentioned above.
We, as a country, operate on the doctrine of separation of powers where the power in this country is separated between the executive, parliament and the legislature. All three arms are meant to keep the other in check so the question that is being asked here is where does the NCCC fit into the three arms of power?
The Spokesperson for the Presidency Khusela Diko said that the NCCC is not a constitutional structure, but a co-ordinating structure of the cabinet. This means that cabinet ministers still operate under the oversight of parliament when they exercise their duties in all aspects of jobs, including being accountable for their actions in parliament. So long as parliament is functioning, then the ministers are still exercising their duties under parliamentary oversight.
With the levels of corruption that this country has gone through from State Capture to the Arms Deal, it is no surprise that there are lawyers that are questioning the legality of the NCCC. There is a trust deficit that needs to be rebuilt from the side of government and its citizens and this is the opportunity to start mending fences. We need to be able to receive information that is verified, scrutinised, tested to make sure that we as the public are not being lead astray.
When we don’t receive that information, disinformation starts to sow the seeds of what the public will view as the narrative and that needs to be curtailed. The government needs to come to the table and consult better with interest parties, NGOs and all stakeholders involved. We are all in this together, this is not a zero-sum game, we need to work together to make sure that we can get through this together.
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