Proposal to change rules around South Africa’s state of disaster – including extensions

The Freedom Front Plus has announced its intention to introduce a new bill to parliament, which proposes restrictions around the extension of a national state of disaster.

In an explanatory summary, the FF Plus said that the national state of disaster introduced as part of the coronavirus lockdown – as well as the accompanying regulations – had severe consequences and a negative impact on the lives of every citizen in South Africa.

“Citizens’ basic human rights were restricted and certain behaviours and actions were prohibited. The economic consequences were disastrous and millions of people lost their jobs.

“The Disaster Management Act does not currently provide adequate legislative accountability and oversight over the regulations published in terms of it, the duration of a state of disaster, nor in respect of the extension of a state of disaster.

“In a constitutional democracy, any legislation, which has such severe consequences and which impacts all the citizens and their human rights should be subject to more legislative accountability and oversight.”

The FF Plus said that the purpose of the bill is to amend the Disaster Management Act to amend the duration of a state of disaster.

The bill further seeks to provide that only the National Assembly, provincial legislature or municipal council may resolve to extend a declaration of a national, provincial or local state of disaster respectively and for how long, it said.

The bill also provides for:

  • The requisite majorities required in the National Assembly, provincial legislature and a municipal council in order to extend a national, provincial or local state of disaster respectively;
  • That a resolution to extend a national, provincial or local state of disaster may only be adopted after a public debate;
  • Oversight by the National Assembly over a national state of disaster, and oversight a by provincial legislature over a provincial state of disaster.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma extended the national state of disaster by a further month on 14 October.

Government declared a national state of disaster under Section 27(1) and Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act on 15 March 2020 – in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the state of disaster was originally set to lapse on 15 June, the act provides that it can be extended by the Cogta minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.

In a directive published on Wednesday (14 October), Dlamini-Zuma said that the extension takes into account the need to continue augmenting the existing legislation and contingency arrangements undertaken by organs of state to address the impact of the Covid-19 disaster.

The state of disaster is now set to lapse on 15 November.


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Proposal to change rules around South Africa’s state of disaster – including extensions