Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has called for written comments on the Disaster Management Amendment Bill, which plans major changes for South Africa’ state of disaster regulations and the country’s Covid-19 lockdown rules.
South Africa declared a national state of disaster on 15 March 2020 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, while it was set to lapse on 15 June 2020 the act provides that it can be extended by the Cogta minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.
The state of disaster enables the government to introduce and give effect to lockdown restrictions, which helps curb the spread of Covid-19, however many criticize it as giving the national government wide-ranging powers over citizens with almost no limits or oversight from parliament.
The amendment bill acknowledges this problem and the fact that the Disaster Management Act doesn’t currently provide adequate legislative accountability and oversight of the regulations published in terms of it, the duration of the state of the disaster or the extension of the state of disaster.
The memorandum of the bill states, “In a constitutional democracy, any legislation, which has such severe consequences and which impacts all the citizens and their human rights, should be subject to more legislative accountability and oversight”.