Why government won’t lift South Africa’s lockdown and state of disaster: Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that he is hesitant to lift South Africa’s national state of disaster as the government may need to rely on the legislation in the coming months.

Ramaphosa told TimesLive that the government was dependent on the legislation to respond to potential Covid-19 waves in South Africa going forward.

“I wish it could end today. I really wish we could say that the state of disaster has ended. We are guided by science, the signs of the pandemic and the Ministerial Advisory Committee guides us in all this.

“There is fear and concern that there could be another wave. What if there is another wave and tomorrow I announce that the state of disaster has ended? Then we have to go back to a state of disaster again.”

The 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 national 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 minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.

The government has relied on the regulations 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.

On Sunday (12 September), Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma gazetted an extension of the national state of disaster, which will see it continue until 15 October 2021.

Lockdown

Ramaphosa is expected to announce South Africa’s updated lockdown regulations in the coming weeks, after moving to an adjusted level 2 lockdown on 13 September.

Professional services firm PwC said that it expects a move to level 1 lockdown from the start of October.

“The severity of the elongated mid-year wave, and the accompanying strictness of associated lockdowns, is a key driver behind the nature of the economic recovery, alongside the impact of electricity load-shedding,” the group said.

“All our scenarios take into account a likely fourth wave of infections – with varying severity, depending on the scenario – during the summer holidays.”

Health minister Joe Phaahla said last week that the government is considering the further easing of lockdown restrictions. Some of the eased restrictions could include:

  • An 00h00 evening curfew;
  • Alcohol would be allowed to be sold for off-site consumption on a Saturday;
  • More leisure activities will be allowed to reopen.

However, despite the more positive outlook, Phaahla and other health experts have warned that a fourth wave could be on the horizon – particularly with the coming elections in November, and higher mobility and larger gatherings over the end-of-year holiday period.


Read: What’s next for Covid-19 and lockdowns in South Africa?

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Why government won’t lift South Africa’s lockdown and state of disaster: Ramaphosa