Cabinet has announced the extension of South Africa’s national state of disaster by a further month.
In a statement on it latest decisions published on Wednesday (10 February), cabinet said that the state of disaster will now continue until 15 March 2021.
The extension is expected to be officially gazetted Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the coming days.
The latest extension is notable as it will be a full year since the state of disaster was introduced for the country in March 2020.
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.
However, it has also faced criticism for giving national government wide-ranging powers over the lives of citizens, with almost no limits, and little to no oversight from parliament.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said the use of section 27 of the Disaster Management Act, and the repeated extensions, has created a ‘de facto state of emergency’, with government assuming powers over every aspect of South African life.
The party has now called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to submit any possible extension of the national state of disaster to parliament for approval and review.
It has also indicated that it will prepare draft legislation in 2021 to amend the Disaster Management Act and bring future lockdowns under parliamentary control.
“South Africans should not be forced to go to court every time we need explanations from government. That is why we have Parliament. Moreover, the power to make laws should be with Parliament,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.
“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.”