Govt's coronavirus command council not established in terms of any act, Ramaphosa's answers reveal

President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing a meeting.
President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing a meeting.
GCIS
  • The controversial National Coronavirus Command Council was established as a committee of the Cabinet.
  • Cyril Ramaphosa did not answer on which law he relied on for its establishment, merely stating it was established as a Cabinet committee. 
  • All Cabinet members serve on the NCCC, he said.

The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) was not established in terms of the Disaster Management Act.

This was revealed in President Cyril Ramaphosa's answers to DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach.

Breytenbach posed two written questions to Ramaphosa on the topic of the controversial NCCC, a body established after the declaration of a national state of disaster. Its legal standing has been questioned while lockdown regulations seemingly emanate from it.

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In one of her questions, Breytenbach asked on "which existing Act of Parliament, regulation or provision of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa" did Ramaphosa rely on when he established the NCCC and from which existing Act, regulation or provision of the Constitution does the NCCC derive its power, responsibility, functions and duties.

Ramaphosa's full response to this question read as follows: "The National Coronavirus Command Council [NCCC] - originally known as the NCC - was established as a committee of Cabinet by the Cabinet in its meeting of 15 March 2020."

The NCCC faced criticism for taking far-reaching decisions related to the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country. But the government changed tune, saying the NCCC did not take decisions. 

Breytenbach also asked, in both questions, whether the NCCC had taken over or was duplicating the powers, responsibilities and functions of the Intergovernmental Committee on Disaster Management and the National Disaster Management Advisory Forum or National Disaster Management Centre. These bodies are established in terms of the Disaster Management Act.

READ | 'Unwarranted personal attacks' from Presidency shuts down debate on NCCC - Craig Watt-Pringle

"No," was Ramaphosa's full response both times the question was posed.

Breytenbach also asked for details on the powers, responsibilities, functions and duties of the NCCC and in which ways do these specified powers, responsibilities, functions and duties differ from each of the Intergovernmental Committee on Disaster Management, the National Disaster Management Advisory Forum or National Disaster Management Centre.

"The NCCC co-ordinates government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The NCCC makes recommendations to Cabinet on measures required in terms of the national state of disaster. Cabinet makes the final decisions," Ramaphosa responded.

However, the whole Cabinet serves on the NCCC, according to answers from Ramaphosa to Breytenbach and from Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu to IFP MP Narend Singh.

Breytenbach and Singh asked what the composition of the NCCC was.

Initially, all ministers except the following were included in the NCCC:

  • Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
  • Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza.
  • Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.
  • Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.
  • Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
  • Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille.
  • Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
  • Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

"However, after two meetings of the NCCC, the president decided to invite the rest of the members of Cabinet, as it became clear that they too were crucial to the national response," Mthembu answered to Singh.

"Other members of Cabinet were subsequently invited to attend NCCC meetings. It is supported by the Cabinet Secretariat and National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure [NatJoints]," said Ramaphosa.

The letters informing ministers of their appointment to the NCCC is attached to Mthembu's answer. The one with the initial members is dated 18 March, the one informing the rest of their appointment the next day.

Neither letter mentions any legislation.                           

Mthembu said the NCCC was briefed by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize at each meeting, based on the advice of "Health Expects [sic]".

"All NCCC matters that have police implications are referred to the Cabinet for decision-making," Mthembu said. 

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