For the first time since lockdown began, President Cyril Ramaphosa will face a gruelling question and answer session in parliament’s National Assembly on Thursday 18 June.
It’s been almost three months since President Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would be subjected to a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. While government’s risk-adjusted strategy has recently allowed for regulatory reprieves aimed at resuscitating the economy, Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) have been heavily criticised for prolonging the lockdown governed by the Disaster Management Act.
While Ramaphosa enjoyed a wave of public support at the beginning of the lockdown — with many praising the president’s decisive action to prevent loss of life and afford the country’s healthcare system a window of opportunity to prepare for the virus’ inevitable peak — sentiment turned against government when regulations, now found to be invalid and unconstitutional, were ratified by the NCCC.
Ramaphosa faces lockdown backlash
Amid a flurry of legal challenges and public outcry, Ramaphosa has reiterated his commitment to the risk-adjusted approach.
In addition to political contestation, with both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) condemning Ramaphosa’s approach — although for vastly different reasons — factional infighting amongst ministers of the NCCC has marred ‘collaborative decision making’ championed by the president.
EFF leader Julius Malema has consistently called for an urgent reopening of parliament for the sole purpose of holding President Ramaphosa accountable for ‘corruption and fraud’ perpetuated under the guise of lockdown.
DA leader John Steenhuisen has also called for Ramaphosa to avail himself to cross-examination within the National Assembly.
‘Holding the president accountable’
The president, who has been listed as a primary respondent, alongside Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in several legal challenges, has been accused of misleading the public and endorsing unconstitutional lockdown regulations.
On Thursday, the president will face a barrage of questions via a virtual parliamentary sitting. Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo confirmed that the National Assembly’s question and answer session will begin at 14:00. In announcing the event, Parliament said:
“Questions for oral replies is another way in which Parliament hold members of the Executive, including the President, accountable for the work of government.”
On Tuesday 16 June, President Ramaphosa is scheduled to hold a virtual ‘Commemoration for the National Youth Day’ briefing.