President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet has approved the extension of South Africa’s national state of disaster into 2022, but the government is now looking at ways to move away from the controversial system for good.
Answering in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the government was in the process of developing sustainable regulatory measures needed for the control of Covid-19 beyond the national state of disaster in terms of existing legislation.
“Notable is that relevant sector departments have been requested to accelerate the phasing-in of Covid-19 resilience measures using their respective existing legislative frameworks,” she said.
“The details of progress made in terms of finalising specific sector regulatory measures is not available and can best be provided by the Cabinet Members responsible for the particular areas of work.”
Dlamini-Zuma said that a specific date by which the national state of disaster is to be lifted cannot be provided at this stage.
“But it is important to reiterate that all lockdown restrictions will be lifted and the state of disaster will be terminated as soon as it is determined that the need to augment existing legislation and contingency arrangements through the disaster management regulations is no longer required to assist and protect the public, provide relief to the public, protecting property, preventing or combatting disruption or dealing with the destructive and other effects of the disaster.”
In a media briefing on Thursday morning (9 December), minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele said that the state of disaster will be extended until 15 January. Dlamini-Zuma is expected to formally gazette the extension within the coming week.
This would make it the 22nd month under the state of disaster since it was declared at the end of March 2020, and the 19th extension of the regulations after their first end date of June 2020.
While the national state of disaster was initially 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 few limits and little to no oversight from parliament. The latest extension means that South Africa will be nearing 30 months of restrictions.