President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet has extended South Africa’s national state of disaster, but says that work is now being done to bring it to a close next month.
This follows a briefing by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) last week to determine the extent to which the management of the Covid-19 pandemic still required the existence of the state of disaster.
“Inputs were received from various government departments to determine their respective areas of work that are at an advanced stage of completion,” Cabinet said.
“After noting that some of the key departments dealing with Covid-19 had not yet concluded their analysis, Cabinet approved the final extension of the National State of Disaster to 15 March 2022, in terms of Section 27(5)(c) of the Disaster Management Act.”
In his state of the nation address on Thursday evening (10 February), the president said that the end to the state of disaster will be finalised once new regulations outside of the Disaster Management Act are complete.
He noted that South Africa has now lifted nearly all economic and social restrictions and that the country was now entering a ‘new phase of the pandemic’.
“Our approach has been informed throughout by the best available scientific evidence, and we have stood out both for the quality of our scientists and for their involvement in every step of our response.
“We are now ready to enter a new phase in our management of the pandemic. It is my intention to end the national state of disaster as soon as we have finalised other measures under the National Health Act and other legislation to contain the pandemic.”
The state of disaster is currently set to expire on 15 March 2022 following the latest extension. This would make it the 23rd 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.
The act provides that it can be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister 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.