Dlamini-Zuma to oppose court bid to end national State of Disaster

The national State of Disaster may not be coming to an end any time soon amid a pending court battle.

DearSA has accused government of having no intention to end the State of Disaster.

This comes after Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma notified the civil rights organisation and co-applicant AfriForum of government’s intention to oppose their court bid.

“This response indicates that the government has no intention of lifting the State of Disaster. And that, despite previous promises, the overreaching regulations are here to stay,” DearSA media officer, Tim Flack, said in a statement.

With the current State of Disaster set to end on Tuesday, 15 March, Flack said DearSA will continue with its legal action.

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DearSA chairperson Rob Hutchison also indicated that Covid-19 regulations are here to stay.

“They won’t end it. A week ago we received a notice from the minister’s legal team stating they are opposing our legal challenge to end the State of Disaster. Game on,” he said in a tweet last Thursday.

Last month, AfriForum and DearSA approached the Pretoria High Court in a bid to have the State of Disaster declared invalid arguing that the Covid-19 pandemic was not of the requisite magnitude anymore.

Dlamini-Zuma also recently informed business group Sakeliga via a letter that the State of Disaster would be ended when “adequate measures to deal with the effects of Covid-19 beyond the State of Disaster have been finalised”.

New regulations

Government has repeatedly been criticised for extending the State of Disaster without parliamentary oversight.

As of 14 March, South Africa has been in lockdown for at least 717 days after the president first declared the State of Disaster in March 2020.

The State of Disaster will be terminated once  the National Health Act regulations are finalised.

The Department of Health is currently amending the regulations so the country can move out of the State of Disaster.

READ MORE: SA health experts call for face masks and other Covid restrictions to be dropped

According to Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla, the new health regulations will ensure there are enough protective measures to replace the Disaster Management Act.

The regulations will cover surveillance and control of notifiable diseases, public health measures at points of entry, management of human remains and environmental health. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to announce a further month’s extension to the State of Disaster if regulations are not ready by Tuesday, with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) expected to meet on Monday.

Amendment Bill

Meawhile, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cogta has since completed that the process of drafting the Disaster Management Amendment Bill.

This was revealed during the National Assembly’s Programming Committee meeting last Thursday.

The Bill is now expected to go to the National Assembly for a debate, after it was published in the government gazette last July for public comment.

After the debate, MPs in the National Assembly will vote on whether to pass the Bill or not, and proceed to the select committees for discussion.

It will then go to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for a debate and vote, before it is sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for approval, according to Parliament’s website on “how laws are made“.

The proposed amendments to the Disaster Management Act could see some major changes to South Africa’s State of Disaster and Covid-19 lockdown regulations if it is signed into law by Ramaphosa.

READ NOW: Parliament’s Cogta committee finalises Disaster Management Amendment Bill