President Cyril Ramaphosa chairs a virtual meeting of the national command council from his official residency Mahlamba Ndlopfu. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE
President Cyril Ramaphosa chairs a virtual meeting of the national command council from his official residency Mahlamba Ndlopfu. Picture: JAIRUS MMUTLE

There’s a certain mental flick-flacking required to make sense of the national coronavirus command council, or NCCC.

Last week, we found out that the council is really just the cabinet — all of it — in less dressy clothes. (It started out as a council of 19 ministers, but was soon expanded.)

Second, we were told it’s not a decision-making body. It has a perfect overlap of membership with the cabinet, but it is not the cabinet; it’s a substructure that makes recommendations that the cabinet makes decisions about.

But while it’s not the cabinet, it also is the cabinet – at least in so far as the opacity of its, um, recommendations is concerned.

This much is clear from an affidavit Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma filed on Friday around the tobacco flip-flop.

In response to a request for the minutes of NCCC meetings where votes were taken on the lockdown and the tobacco ban, Dlamini Zuma says no vote was taken, "therefore there are no minutes of any meetings where a vote was taken".

And before you go impertinently asking for any other NCCC minutes — those are privileged documents, given that they are part of cabinet business.

It’s Samuel Beckett-worthy in its absurdity; Orwellian in its obfuscation. It suggests a government that sees no need to subject its decisions to scrutiny. Or perhaps it’s afraid that doing so will reveal how far into farce we’ve fallen.