The cabinet has announced the extension of the national disaster state of South Africa for another month.
In a statement on the latest decisions released on Wednesday (February 10), the cabinet said the disaster state will now last until March 15, 2021.
The extension is expected to be formally approved in the coming days by the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The most recent extension is noteworthy as it will be a full year since the country entered the disaster state in March 2020.
On March 15, 2020, South Africa declared a national state of disaster in response to the coronavirus pandemic in accordance with Section 27 Paragraph 1 and Section 27 Paragraph 2 of the Civil Protection Act.
While the state of disaster was originally supposed to expire on June 15, 2020, the law provides that it can be extended by one month at a time by the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) by posting in the Official Gazette before it expires.
The government has relied on the state of disaster to put in and enforce lockdown restrictions that will help contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, it has also been criticized for giving the national government far-reaching powers over the lives of citizens, with almost no borders and with little to no scrutiny from parliament.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said the application of Section 27 of the Civil Protection Act and the repeated extensions created a “de facto state of emergency” in which the government takes control of all aspects of South African life.
The party has now called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to submit a possible expansion of the national disaster state to parliament for approval and review.
It has also announced that it will prepare bills in 2021 to amend the Civil Protection Act and bring future lockdowns under parliamentary control.
“South Africans shouldn’t be forced to go to court every time we need explanations from the government. That is why we have Parliament. In addition, parliament should have the power to legislate, ”said a statement on Tuesday.
“But the risk of South Africa being ruled in an ongoing state of national disaster with little parliamentary scrutiny and no parliamentary scrutiny goes beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.”
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