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Tag: State of disaster

Dlamini-Zuma extends State of Disaster laws

Our frequent reminder that this global pandemic is still making our lives a misery has been delivered by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – who was left with few other options but to extend the State of Disaster regulations into the middle of next month.

STATE OF DISASTER LAWS EXTENDED: HOW LONG WILL LOCKDOWN LAST?

South Africa is teetering on the brink of a third wave – with some locations already in the grip of a resurging virus. This would be the worst possible time to throw the towel in, and instead of expiring this Saturday, the State of Disaster laws will now be in place until Tuesday 15 June 2021. But don’t start chucking your masks away on that date…

Unless there’s an unforeseen change to COVID-19’s status as a serious health risk, the legislation will roll over again on that date. The rules have to be refreshed and reimplemented every four-to-five weeks. Cabinet confirmed in a statement:

“Cabinet has approved the extension of the National State of Disaster on COVID-19 until Tuesday 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.” | Cabinet Statement

DLAMINI-ZUMA ‘WARY’ OF RAPID RISE IN NEW INFECTIONS

For those of you who love your legal jargon, you’ll be pleased to hear that the extension has been approved in terms of Section 27(5)(c) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act 57 of 2002). Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as head of COGTA, gave final approval to prolonging our lockdown laws – warning that the war on COVID-19 ‘has not yet been won’.

“The war has not been won. There is an ever-present danger that the rate of infection may rapidly increase. Even as we rollout the mass vaccination programme, vulnerabilities are high particularly amongst the young. More than ever before we must adhere to the protocols of masking, washing hands, sanitizing, and maintaining a social distance.”

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Minister Dlamini-Zuma extends National State of Disaster to 15 May 2021

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, on Wednesday, 14 April 2021, gazetted the extension of the COVID-19 National State of Disaster until 15 May 2021.

“We must sustain our commitment to remain responsive, agile and compassionate as we work to save lives and protect the livelihoods of all South Africans”

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

CoGTA explained in a statement that the “extension is in terms of section 27(5)(c) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002). It was postponed following consultations with Cabinet.

Minister Dlamini-Zuma explained that she had taken into account “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”.

STATE OF DISASTER LAWS EXTENDED IN MARCH

Prior to this, the State of Disaster laws were extended for 35 days in March, with Minister Dlamini-Zuma saying at the time the extension would stay in place until 15 April 2021.

The State of Disaster will likely be extended again on 15 May. Despite COVID-19 infection rates decreasing, the virus is still “in circulation” and the vaccine hold-up could only exacerbate the delay.

The first reported case of COVID-19 in Africa was recorded on 27 February 2020 in Nigeria, with the NICD confirming the first South African case on 4 March 2020.

FIRST STATE OF DISASTER IMPLEMENTED 15 MARCH 2020

Despite the country’s low caseload at the time (61 confirmed cases and zero deaths), President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a State of Disaster in effect from 15 March 2020.

At the time, Dlamini-Zuma said the implementation of the National State of Disaster was necessary to assist in protecting the public as well as provide relief, protect property, and prevent disruption.

Once the motion was approved, Cabinet urged South Africans to “build on the momentum of this encouraging news and continue to work together to consistently do the right things”.

South Africans were reminded to practise social distancing, continue to wear masks, and wash and sanitise hands regularly.

Cabinet approves extension of National State of Disaster

Cabinet has approved the extension of the national state of disaster until 15 April.

It has also urged South Africans to continue to practice safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said that Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni briefed Cabinet on Wednesday on negotiations with pharmaceutical companies for vaccines.

She said that some of the contracts had terms that were not aligned with the Public Finance Management Act and that Treasury had already granted deviations from the act, in the interests of saving lives.

“The deviations included prepayment provisions to ensure that South Africans have access to the vaccines as soon as possible. Cabinet supported the efforts of National Treasury and the national Department of Health to continue with the negotiations and ensure quick access to vaccines for all.”

Ntshavheni said that South Africans must not drop their guard when it came to the coronavirus.

“Cabinet calls on everybody to remain vigilant and continue practising the health protocols of wearing a mask when in public spaces, regularly washing hands with soap and water or using a 70% alcohol-based hand sanitiser, maintaining social distancing of at least 1.5 metres and avoiding large gatherings. The prevention of the possible third wave is all in our hands.”

Will State of Disaster laws be renewed this month?

The DA has confirmed that its legal bid to review South Africa’s State of Disaster laws has been heard by the courts. Lawyers representing the opposition party appeared in the dock on Tuesday, arguing that the government must first put any ‘renewal’ of lockdown to Parliament before making it law.

Since the end of March 2020, a State of Disaster has been in place for Mzansi. It started with a three-month implementation, and has been rolled over each month since then. Cyril Ramaphosa is highly likely to extend these COVID-19 protocols – which are set to expire on Monday 15 February – through to Monday 15 March instead.

However, some critics of the government are upset that the ANC gets to dictate lockdown laws without the proposals being properly scrutinised in the National Assembly first. Cilliers Brink, the Shadow COGTA Minister, has been leading the charge to bring ALL political parties with serving MPs into the high-level discussions.

According to Brink, this current set-up is ‘borderline authoritarian’, and blurs the line between State of Disaster laws and State of Emergency laws. The party also wants the courts to help them overturn a number of rules laid out by the Disaster Management Act.

“The DA calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to submit any possible extension of the national state of disaster to Parliament for approval and review. The present State of Disaster comes to an end on Monday 15 February, and South Africans are tired of accepting, without question, the government’s decisions on how to curb the pandemic.”

“The risk of South Africa being governed under a perpetual State of Disaster with little parliamentary oversight and no parliamentary control goes beyond Covid-19 pandemic. 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.”

“Unlike a state of emergency, the government’s decisions under a state of disaster is not subject to a parliamentary veto. Restoring our legislative powers is also what our constitutional challenge to section 27 of the Disaster Management Act aims to achieve. The matter is now in court, and the DA will also propose amendments to the Disaster Management Act.”

Cilliers Brink

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

New application to overturn state of disaster to be filed in January

The urgent application by civil society group “Dear South Africa” to set aside the extension of the lockdown by the government will only be heard by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, sometime in January.

The application was yesterday on the court roll, but the group decided to refile its challenge early in the new year to allow the government sufficient time to prepare responses.

Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was served with papers two weeks ago and has so far not submitted a response, although she intends opposing the matter.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has, meanwhile, launched an application to intervene in the matter.

Dear South Africa director Rob Hutchinson said they would call on Mkhize to supply his reasons to persist with the state of disaster and precautions, despite conflicting evidence and opinions regarding its effectiveness.

“We decided it would avoid a lot of time-wasting technical arguments to refile the case in January, after the court break, by which time the two relevant ministries will have had time to formulate their responses,” he said.

This is a case that must be brought before the courts as soon as possible, he said.

“This is something that we know has huge public support, given the responses to the various campaigns where we canvassed public opinions on the lockdown and the impact they are having on the country.”

The organisation will ask the court to declare unlawful and set aside the lockdown extension declared by Dlamini Zuma on November 14.

While this extension runs until December 15, Hutchinson said in court papers that it would in all likelihood be extended.

“Given the delay in having the court action heard, there is a likelihood that the government will extend the lockdown yet again over the Christmas period,” he said.

The organisation will argue that the tool being used by the government to impose the lockdown is the Disaster Management Act, which is intended for disasters of a temporary nature, and should not be used as a blunt instrument with which to severely restrict the constitutional rights of South Africans. These rights include the right to earn a living, move around and assemble.

Hutchinson said Dear South Africa was obligated to bring the court challenge to determine the limits of government power and prevent further infringements of human rights.

He said the overwhelming majority of respondents to various of the organisation’s participation campaigns believed the government had overstepped its powers and that the lockdown represented an abuse of power.

“The rationale behind the DearSA court action is that the original purpose for imposing lockdown – to prevent the health system being overwhelmed by a virus about which we knew little at the start of the lockdown – has been achieved.

“Evidence of this is the fact that the government has closed down temporary health facilities that were hastily assembled for this purpose.

The health system has not been overwhelmed, notwithstanding a rise in infections in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.”

The organisation will argue that lockdown measures have had a devastating impact on the economy. The court action challenges the rationality of government’s catastrophic actions on the economic welfare of the country in the name of saving South Africans from a virus which the World Health Organization calculates has had a global infection fatality rate of less than 0.2%.”

Hutchinson admitted in his affidavit that there was the possibility of a second Covid-19 wave, but said the government had plenty of time to prepare for this.

He said the first wave did not overwhelm the hospital system, but if the situation changed, a new state of disaster could be declared based on the new circumstances that could arise.

“It is improper to keep the current state of disaster perpetually in force on the basis that some new disaster may occur on some unknown date,” he said.

News: State of disaster extended till 15 October

The cabinet has approved the extension of the national state of disaster until October 15.

The extension was approved to “continue giving effect to the regulations  that remain relevant to manage the spread of Covid-19 infections,” spokesperson Phumla Williams said in a statement on the outcome of a virtual cabinet meeting.

“Cabinet welcomes the drop in the number of new confirmed Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks and the improved recovery rate that has increased to 87%. The number of people requiring admission in our hospitals and the demand for Covid-19 tests have also dropped.”

“Cabinet thanks all South Africans for playing their part in adhering to restrictions to flatten the curve. We commend the dedication and sacrifice of all health professionals who have been our front-line defence against the virus.”

Lockdown Level 1

According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africans can look forward to more announcements in the next few days.

Speaking during a virtual meeting with the South African National Editors Forum, he said there will also be a review of lockdown regulations.

“As the National Coronavirus Command Council, we are having to evaluate a number of proposals put to us by a number of sectors of society including religious leaders asking that we consider extending the number of people allowed in worship.

He said churches are asking for at least half of their congregations and worshippers to attend instead of the stipulated 50 as per current level 2 regulations.

Ramaphosa said council has also had requests from the sports and entertainment sector as well as hoteliers and the tourism sector.

“We are doing an evaluation of the infection rate and will get advice from the Medical Advisory Committee and the NATJoints teams. Watch this space, next week where we end up as a nation in as far as this is concerned,” he said.

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