South Africa’s state of disaster extended by another month

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet has extended South Africa’s national state of disaster by a further month.

In a statement made following a cabinet meeting on Thursday (13 May), it said that the state of disaster will now continue until 15 June 2021.

“The extension considers the need to continue augmenting the existing legislation and contingency arrangements undertaken by organs of state to mitigate against the impact of the disaster on lives and livelihoods,” it said.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is expected to officially publish the extension in the government gazette within the next couple of days.

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.

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.

While it has faced increased pressure from opposition parties and civil society groups to lift the state of the disaster, Ramaphosa’s cabinet is likely to continue to rely on the extension as the country faces the possible introduction of new restrictions ahead of a third covid-19 wave for the country.

The opposition Democratic Alliance has called on president Cyril Ramaphosa to submit any possible extension of the national state of disaster to Parliament for approval and review.

“South Africans should not be forced to go to court every time we need explanations from the government. That is why we have Parliament. Moreover, the power to make laws should be with parliament,” it said.

“But the risk of South Africa being governed under a perpetual state of national disaster with little parliamentary oversight and no parliamentary control go beyond Covid-19 pandemic.

“As it is now being interpreted by the government, section 27 of the Disaster Management Act has created a de facto state of emergency with the government assuming wide-ranging powers of every aspect of South African life.”

Read: Businesses send lockdown warning ahead of third Covid-19 wave in South Africa

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South Africa’s state of disaster extended by another month