Push to put South Africa’s state of disaster laws in the hands of parliament

The opposition Democratic Alliance says that it will prepare draft legislation in 2021 to amend the Disaster Management Act and bring future lockdowns under parliamentary control.

The party has criticised the government’s extended state of disaster extensions and is currently challenging the constitutionality of section 27 of the Disaster Management Act in court.

It applied for direct access to the Constitutional Court in July 2020, but its application was denied on the grounds that it was not in the interests of justice to hear the matter at that stage.

However, the DA believes that this issue should also be brought to the floor of parliament.

“Post-Covid the ANC will be remembered for three things: one of the world’s longest and hardest lockdowns, the theft of disaster relief funds, and the failure to focus public resources on gaining early and widespread access to a vaccine.

“But the risks of SA being governed under a perpetual state of national disaster, with little parliamentary oversight and no parliamentary veto, go beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The health and wellbeing of ordinary South Africans should never again be made to depend on the whims and mercies of a corrupt and incompetent governing party,” it said.

Latest extension

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.

The comments come after cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma extended the national state of disaster by another month this week.

In a gazette published on Wednesday (13 January), 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 disaster.

The state of disaster is now set to lapse on 15 February – nearly a full year since it was officially introduced.

Read: Government to keep all schools closed in South Africa – here are the new opening dates

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Push to put South Africa’s state of disaster laws in the hands of parliament