COVID-19: What exactly is the national command council?

The NCC deliberates and makes decisions on steps the country should take to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE: Cogta Minister Nkosazan Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG – Amid the country's coronavirus crisis, you’ve probably become familiar with hearing the term national command council (NCC) by now.

The NCC is a government grouping which deliberates and makes decisions on steps the country should take to manage the pandemic during the lockdown.

As part of the lockdown, mass restrictions have been implemented across various sectors to help stem the spread of the virus.

But who is the council made up of, and how does it function?

WHO IS IT MADE UP OF?

The NCC is chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The command council consists of about 20 ministers (of a total of 33 ministers); the representatives of the NatJoints (a security structure comprised of the police, the army and intelligence) headed by the secretary of defence; and the directors-general of the 20 departments.

The council meets on an almost daily basis.

Dlamini-Zuma oversees the Disaster Management Act, the umbrella legislation that permits the lockdown. She declared the state of national disaster and now oversees it.

WHAT ARE THE NCC’S FUNCTIONS?

During his initial address on 15 March 2020, Ramaphosa said that the council’s function was to “co-ordinate” The country's response to the crisis.

Two days later, the tweets on the Presidency’s official Twitter page noted that the function of the council was to “lead” our response to the crisis.

Promotion from a “co-ordinating” function to a “leading” role is significant because the legitimacy of the council depends on the role it is fulfilling. A co-ordinating role would be legitimate. A leading role in which the council is interfering in policy and regulatory matters would not be legitimate.

Jackson Mthembu, the Minister in the Presidency, told the nation that the council “advises the president”, and that its business includes “some very weighty matters” such as “how the government should respond” to the crisis.

However, it seems that there's limited additional information about the council and how it develops policies during this unprecedented state of disaster in the country.