SOUTH AFRICA’S bitter experience with successive states of emergency during apartheid, resulted in a liberal Constitution which aimed to avoid a political dictatorship. The executive is thus bound by a dispensation which enshrines democratic rights and freedoms even during an emergency or disaster.
The failure of Parliament to debate any of the regulations imposed since 23 March 2020, including the successive renewal of the disaster without so much as a democratic mandate, (currently we are in lockdown level 1) means that the checks and guarantees in our constitution amount to little more than hot air when it comes to the ruling party exercise of power.
While silent on the authority inherent to a public health disaster, it cannot be that the National Disaster Management Act is a more powerful instrument of governance than a State of Emergency, or that Parliament is in effect suspended and restrained from its oversight role?
“We must have parliamentary oversight and make a national state of disaster subject to the same procedural constraints that already apply to a state of emergency in our law. After all, the risks of the abuse of power under a state of national disaster are similar to those historically associated with a state of emergency” says Cilliers Brink MP the DA’s Shadow Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
A Coronovirus Management Act for instance, would certainly quell such reservations.
“Recently, the penny dropped for a few free-speech activists when they realised, with horror, that in this election year, all political events are currently banned” writes Cilliers.
“Even if the ban is lifted in the coming weeks, it can readily be reimposed by the stroke of a ministerial pen, regardless of whether there are less restrictive means to curb a third wave of the pandemic” he added.
With the collapse of our democratic institutions, our partisan ‘judiciary’ was soon to follow, trotting out apartheid-era justifications for the treatment of persons who oppose vaccination and removing dissident voices.
It was Voltaire who once said: ‘I disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.’ While it was Harry S Truman who said: “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
Spare a thought then for those who disagree with the special measures, introduced unilaterally by the nation’s executive, measures which include mask wearing, curfews, restrictions upon movement and the possibility of mandatory vaccination.
Craig Peiser, one of the organisers of a series of beach protest events held in False Bay by ‘We Are More’, is currently detained in a state psychiatric facility, after he was found unfit to appear for trial, apparently on account of his ‘lack of appreciation of right and wrong’.
This follows a ‘psychiatric report’ authored by one Professor Sean Kaliski.
“Based on the report, the court found that [Peiser] didn’t have criminal capacity when the incidents happened. He couldn’t distinguish between right and wrong” suggests Theolin Tembo of INM.
Involuntary commitment for political reasons was removed from the Mental Health Care Act in 2002, but this didn’t stop Professor Kaliski from committing Peiser for his acts of civil disobedience.
Peiser who is opposed to mask wearing, removed the mask of an ENCA reporter, resulting in a charge of common assault. The media were barred from the court proceedings which resulted in him being treated as an involuntary mental health care user.
South Africa has often resorted to elements of the Cuban medical system, which routinely commits those who oppose the Castro dynasty inside mental health institutions. The SADF recently imported R260 million of the drug interferon, thinking that Covid-19 was biological warfare.
The country continues to enforce a travel ban on the Dalai Lama and has failed to guarantee secular rights and freedoms.