Coronavirus: Steenhuisen calls for ad hoc committee for protection of civil liberties

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DA interim leader John Steenhuisen
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen
Felix Dlangamandla

The leader of the official opposition in Parliament John Steenhuisen has written to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise to establish an ad hoc committee to ensure continued oversight of the national executive authority and organs of state.

In the proposal, Steenhuisen has requested Modise to ensure that civil liberties are protected at all times during the lockdown.

The request by the interim DA leader is based on Rule 253(1)(b) of the Rules of the National Assembly.

Section 55(2) of the Constitution directs the National Assembly to:

(a) ensure that all executive organs of state in the national sphere of government are accountable to it; and

(b) maintain oversight of

(i) the exercise of national executive authority, including the implementation of legislation; and

(ii) any organ of state.

Steenhuisen said that although the DA has pledged its full support to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet, they, as the official opposition, and other opposition parties in the House still have a duty to hold the executive to account.

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Since the announcement of the lockdown by Ramaphosa last Monday, there have been numerous reports of alleged brutality at the hands of members of the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force deployed countrywide.

"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.

He emphasised that the DA needed to look at measures to ensure that not only was the coronavirus outbreak stopped, but measures were put in place to ensure there was consistent accountability of the government during the outbreak.

Steenhuisen added that this was why the DA was proposing the establishment of an ad hoc committee.

Rule 167(g) indicates that a committee may meet in a venue determined by it.

"We are proposing that this committee meet via online platforms or videoconferencing facilities to respect the conditions of the lockdown and adhere to the principle of social distancing.

"We need to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution at all costs, even in this most unprecedented and unusual of times," he said.

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