S African President defends lockdown amid legal challenges

CAPE TOWN (XINHUA) – Any government decisions to combat COVID-19 are made in goodA faith with an aim to protect the interests of South Africans, President Cyril Ramaphosa said yesterday in response to a series of legal actions against lockdown restrictions.

“Our foremost priority remains to save lives. Our every decision is informed by the need to advance the rights to life and dignity as set out in our constitution,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly address.

Since the government imposed the lockdown in late March, there have been legal challenges from a number of individuals, religious bodies, political parties, non-governmental organisations and business organisations against one or more of the lockdown provisions they were unhappy with.

The most noticeable legal action targets the ban on tobacco sale.

Ramaphosa also mentioned a private citizen from Mpumalanga Province who approached the court to challenge the travel ban which prohibited him from attending a funeral.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. PHOTO: XINHUA

Some have succeeded in their legal challenges, some have not and others have subsequently withdrawn their applications following engagement with the government, according to Ramaphosa.

“While we would prefer to avoid the need for any legal action against government, we should accept that citizens who are unhappy with whatever action that government has decided on implementing have a right to approach our courts for any form of relief they seek,” he said.

This is a normal tenet of a constitutional democracy and a perfectly acceptable practice in a country founded on the rule of law, Ramaphosa said.

“To the contrary, criticism, where it is constructive, helps us to adapt and to move with agility in response to changing circumstances and conditions,” the President said.

He maintained that the government relies on scientific, economic and empirical data when it comes to making decisions and formulating regulations around its coronavirus response.