South Africa’s state of disaster extended as it passes the two-year mark
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has extended South Africa’s National State of Disaster by a further month. The state of disaster is now set to expire on 15 April 2022. This would make it 25 months the country has been under a state of disaster since it was first declared at the end of March 2020.
The extension takes into account the need to continue augmenting the existing legislation and contingency arrangements undertaken by organs of state to address the impact of the disaster, she said.
While the National State of Disaster was initially set to lapse on 15 June 2020, the act provides that it can be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.
The Government has relied on the regulations to introduce and give effect to lockdown restrictions, which it has used to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof Dewald van Niekerk reacts to extension announcement
“I don’t think it should come as a big surprise to any of us. The state of disaster has been extended so many times before, and the reason given is that the COVID-19 regulations must stay in place. Since the previous call for the discontinuation of the state of disaster, we haven’t seen the government move significantly on putting these regulations under any other legislation. That is the main reason why we find ourselves in this position once again.”
On whether we’re technically still in a disaster: “If we look at the definition of a disaster, which would govern the state of disaster, we cannot justify why we find ourselves in a state of disaster; not if we apply the letter of the law. The difficult portion is the risk associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. We still need to manage an unknown future and, in order to do that, the Disaster Management Act as it has always been very progressive in the sense that it allows us to be more proactive than reactive in our actions.”
On the likelihood the state of disaster will be extended again: “If I had to bet, I would say it’ll be extended again by mid-April because of the fear of a fifth wave of COVID-19. We don’t have the complete future picture yet but it would probably make sense for them to extend again. If I was in the minister’s shoes, I would just take the punches and extend it beyond April and then put the new regulations in place.”
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