Government extends South Africa’s state of disaster by another month

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has announced the extension of South Africa’s national state of disaster by a further month.

In a gazette published on Monday (12 July), Dlamini-Zuma said that the state of disaster will now continue until 15 August 2021, taking into account the need to augment existing legislation and contingency arrangements.

South Africa 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 2020, the act provides that it can be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.

The government has relied on the state of disaster to introduce and give effect to lockdown restrictions, which it has used to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it has also faced criticism for giving national government wide-ranging powers over the lives of citizens, with almost no limits, and little to no oversight from parliament.

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The latest state of disaster extension comes as president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country’s level 4 lockdown would continue for another 14 days, with minimal changes to the restrictions already in place.

This is due to a high number of Covid-19 infections in the country, with persistently high new infection numbers.

At present, the country has over 200,000 active Covid-19 cases, the president said. In the last two weeks over 4,200 South Africans have lost their lives to Covid-19.

While Gauteng is still the epicentre of these infections, Ramaposa said that cases are now surging in other provinces with the healthcare sector increasingly under strain. Infections are rapidly increasing in the Western Cape, Limpopo, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, he said.

The following restrictions will remain in place:

  • The evening curfew remains in place from 21h00 – 04h00, and only those with permission to do so may leave their homes during this time;
  • All social, religious, and political gatherings remain prohibited;
  • Schools will remain closed until 26 July;
  • The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.

However, Ramaphosa said that some restrictions will be eased for some businesses. These include:

  • Restaurants and eateries will be able to operate as normal while observing strict protocols – Such establishments may not accommodate more than 50 people at a time or, for smaller venues, more than 50% of their normal capacity;
  • Certain other venues such as gyms and fitness centres may also reopen;
  • Agricultural activities such as livestock auctions will be permitted.

The president said that Cabinet has decided that all business licenses and permits that expired between March 2020 and June 2021 will remain valid until 31 December 2022.

Read: Premier pushes for ‘common sense’ lockdown restrictions in South Africa

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Government extends South Africa’s state of disaster by another month