Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has extended South Africa’s national state of disaster by a further month.
The state of disaster is now set to expire on 15 February 2022. This would make it the 22nd month under the state of disaster since it was declared at the end of March 2020, and the 20th extension of the regulations after their first end date of June 2020.
In a government gazette published on Friday (14 January), the minister said that the extension considers the need to augment the existing legislation and contingency arrangements undertaken by the organs of state to address the impact of the disaster.
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.
End in sight?
Health minister Joe Phaahla says the government is now working on new proposals to lift South Africa’s national state of disaster.
Addressing a media briefing on Friday (14 January), Phaahla said a team comprised of members from the Department of Health, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and the Department of Justice have been tasked with developing the possible proposals – which are largely expected to be introduced under the Health Act.
This team will make a presentation to the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet within the next seven days, and depending on these discussions, further changes could be announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa, Phaahla said.
While Phaahla noted calls by civil society groups and opposition parties to lift the state of disaster, he said that the government would not be ‘rushed’ into lifting the regulations as they are still necessary for addressing the ongoing pandemic.