President Cyril Ramaphosa must take responsibility as commander-in-chief in the war against Covid-19.
This according to General Siphiwe Nyanda, the former chief of staff of both the SA National Defence Force and ANC’s armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, who said some of government’s regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus “didn’t absolutely make sense”.
“In a war, and I think this is a war against an invisible enemy … [the] responsibility sits on the shoulders of the commander-in-chief,” Nyanda told News24, while giving his own assessment of the nationwide lockdown.
He said while ministers played an advisory role, it was up to the president to take decisive action and bear the responsibility of decision on his shoulders.
“This is not the ANC, this is our country and if our country is at war we look to the commander-in-chief.”
Nyanda continued with the war analogy when commenting on the government’s response to the pandemic, saying in warfare only one person was in charge.
“That person [Ramaphosa] cannot pass responsibilities to others.”
Ramaphosa has been criticised for “over-consulting” when taking decisions, especially after he backtracked on an announcement to allow for the sale of cigarettes under Level 4 of the lockdown.
Nyanda said some regulations “didn’t absolutely make sense” or did not seem “thoroughly thought through”.
“It is necessary to win this war, but I am not sure the battles forced on the population are all necessary.”
Nyanda, who said the country seemed to be experiencing lockdown fatigue, expressed concern over the impact of the lockdown and Covid-19 outbreak were having on the poor. At the same time, he expressed empathy for law enforcement, saying it had been placed in a difficult situation.
His comments come on the back of those shared by former finance minister Trevor Manuel who also questioned some of the regulations put in place by Ramaphosa’s government.
Manuel questioned the rationality behind some of the rules implemented by the government, including the ban on e-commerce.
Nyanda is among the ANC veterans and stalwarts who, while in support of Ramaphosa and his efforts to combat the deadly coronavirus outbreak in the country, raised questions over some regulations and confusion around the lockdown.
South Africa is currently under Level 4 of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, which has seen some easing of stringent measures that were in place for over a month during the hard lockdown.
While these have wrecked an already ailing economy, many agree it had to be done to buy the government time to prepare for the worst and for South Africans to adjust to the new normal.
As of Tuesday evening, 206 South Africans have died due to Covid-19, with 11 350 being infected.
Another ANC stalwart, Mavuso Msimang, also raised concerns over law enforcement, saying he had not heard Police Minister Bheki Cele addressing issues raised by members of the public around police brutality strongly enough.
“It’s very important that the South African government is not seen as bullying ordinary people. We should not have been seeing what the army has been doing,” said Msimanga.
“It is not nice seeing someone die and it is put down to the army.”
Msimang and former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Dr Fazel Randera have both expressed broad support for Ramaphosa’s efforts to control the spread of Covid-19, but have also cautioned law enforcement against going too far.
Randera told News24 it was important for the government to observe citizens’ rights during this lockdown and cautioned against police heavy-handedness.
“We can’t frog march people to hotels and other places when they are capable of self-isolating in their own environments,” he said.