Pushback against South Africa’s extended state of disaster

The government’s decision to further extend South Africa’s national state of disaster until 15 April 2022 has been met by significant resistance by opposition parties, businesses, and civil society groups – and now faces a raft of legal challenges.

The opposition Democratic Alliance has slammed the extension as ‘unjustified’, noting that it was done without proper consultation with experts or the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC), with no explanation to the public, and with zero accountability to parliament.

The party now plans to bring a motion of no confidence against Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and other members of president Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet. “It is time minister Dlamini-Zuma was fired. Her brand of irrational dictatorship is eroding the economy and causing job losses on a massive scale,” it said.

These concerns were echoed by opposition party ActionSA, which said it will begin exploring all possible avenues to challenge this latest extension.

“At the end of this month, South Africans will have lived under this State of Disaster for 24 months. During this time, we have had to live under unnecessary and irrational limitations of personal freedoms because of the vast sweeping powers a state of disaster affords to a cabinet – which has proven over many years that it should not be trusted with such powers,” it said.

“With these powers, and beyond the sensible steps followed to protect people, South Africans were not allowed to travel between provinces, procurement regulations were relaxed for the looting of Covid funds, we were told what we could eat or drink, curfews were imposed limiting the movement of people and businesses and many South Africans faced economic ruin.”

Civil society group Afriforum said it will move forward with legal action to end the state of disaster in court. The organisation started legal action in February to have the state of disaster nullified. The government’s legal representatives have indicated that they will oppose AfriForum’s court action.

In its arguments, AfriForum states that there is currently no disaster and hence no need for a state of disaster. The organisation says that when the current hospitalisation and death rates for Covid-19 is taken into consideration, there is no justification for the continued clampdown on citizens’ freedoms.

“This again proves AfriForum’s point that the government has no plans of ever giving up the powers they have grabbed under the guise of an emergency over the last two years.

“There is no reason to continue the state of disaster, unless you’re a power-hungry politician or the countless corrupt individuals who are profiting from emergency procurement irregularities,” said Jacques Broodryk, AfriForum’s campaigns manager.

Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, has also slammed the decision to extend the state of disaster – calling it a ‘flight of fantasy’.

Read: South Africa’s state of disaster extended as it passes the two-year mark

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