MPs need to exercise oversight over enforcement of lockdown, says DA
‘We need to uphold the rule of law and the constitution at all cost, even in this most unprecedented and unusual of times’
MPs need to exercise oversight over the way the lockdown is being enforced by, among others, members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), says DA interim leader John Steenhuisen
He has proposed that the National Assembly establish a special ad hoc committee to do this.
Steenhuisen put the proposal in a letter to National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise. He emphasised the need for the National Assembly to exercise continuous oversight over the government and organs of state to ensure that civil liberties are protected during the lockdown.
“Already this week there have been numerous reports of brutality at the hands of SANDF soldiers deployed across SA, with more worrying accounts including allegations of soldiers opening fire on residents, and employing unnecessarily authoritarian and zealous violence and language. This is absolutely unacceptable, and deeply worrying, as it shows a government in contempt of the civil liberties afforded to all South Africans in a free and democratic state,” Steenhuisen said in a statement.
“These are unprecedented times and we need to look at extraordinary measures to ensure that we not only combat Covid-19 and the spread thereof in SA, but also have extraordinary measures in place to ensure there is consistent and continual accountability for government.”
Steenhuisen noted in his letter to Modise that the constitution directed the National Assembly to hold all executive organs of state in the national sphere of government accountable and to maintain oversight over the exercise of national executive authority, including the implementation of legislation as well as over any organ of state.
“While the DA has committed its full support to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet, we as the official opposition, as well as our fellow opposition parties in the assembly, still have a duty to hold the executive to account,” Steenhuisen said.
“We need to uphold the rule of law and the constitution at all cost, even in this most unprecedented and unusual of times.”
Steenhuisen told Modise that parliament should not be found wanting at this time.
As parliament is now in recess and given the rules on social distancing Steenhuisen has proposed that the ad hoc committee meet on online platforms or through videoconferencing with information and documentation being furnished via e-mail.
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