DA to file urgent court bid against ‘irrational’ extension of the state of disaster

The DA has instructed its lawyers to bring an urgent court application to challenge an “irrational and unreasonable” extension of the state of disaster in SA.

Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is facing a court challenge over the extension of the state of disaster. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

The party also seeks to bring to an end to the lockdown regulations, said its leader John Steenhuisen.

“It’s not enough to end the state of disaster. The lockdown itself must end. It can’t just become permanent legislation as the government is trying to do,” he said on Thursday.

“When the government moves lockdown regulations into permanent legislation instead, the DA will mount a legal challenge to those too. The lockdown is not in SA’s best interest. On the contrary, it is pushing more and more people into joblessness and deeper into poverty.”

He made the announcement two days after minister of  co-operative governance and traditional affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma signed off on an extension to the state of disaster until April 15. At the end of the month SA will have been under a state of disaster for two years.

Steenhuisen said his party would not allow the state of disaster to be “glibly” extended month after month.

“We will not allow our democracy to be suspended indefinitely in favour of rule by decree, with no democratic checks and balances.

“There is no need to maintain the state of disaster and the lockdown. If needed, the state of disaster and the lockdown can be reinstated when the situation changes drastically.

“There is also no need to move lockdown restrictions into permanent legislation. If the Covid-19 risk goes up the state of disaster can be reinstated.”

The only permanent Covid-19-related regulations that needed to be in place were those enabling the social relief of distress grant to continue being paid.

He took a swipe at the government’s stance on how it was guided by science in taking Covid-19-related decisions, arguing that science said a  lockdown was unnecessary, irrational and unreasonable.

Severe Covid-19 illness and hospitalisation rates were low across the country and so were transmission rates, “and even if they go up, they won’t necessarily drive severe illness and hospitalisation rates with them”, said Steenhuisen,

“It is time to treat Covid-19 in the same way as we treat other health risks, such as HIV, TB, cancer and maternal mortality. Like other countries, we need to focus on vaccinating the high-risk group.”

Ending lockdown would have a positive impact on the economy, at least for the tourism industry which used to support 10% of all jobs in the country, he said.

Under level 1 regulations, gatherings are restricted to 2,000 people outdoors and 1,000 indoors. The curfew has been lifted.

“Its recovery [tourism] is hamstrung by requirements such as a negative PCR test to enter the country, imposing a significant additional cost on international tourists. Most countries accept evidence of vaccination or prior infection too, while some, such as Mexico, impose no requirements at all.

“While the rest of the world has filled stadiums for sport and shows, in SA the Soweto Derby had to take place in an empty stadium last weekend.”

The decision to extend the state of disaster was no longer about fighting the spread of Covid-19 but rather the ANC’s desperation to cling to power.

“It is fighting to hold on to the powers it has become accustomed to these past two years. Powers that allow it to evade accountability and oversight.

“Such an unconstitutional power grab cannot be tolerated in an open, democratic society like ours.”

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba on Tuesday made a similar announcement, saying his party would explore all possible avenues to challenge Dlamini-Zuma’s decision.

“Because of what we fear will become a pattern of extensions that will continue. This may include legal action and exploring collaboration with like-minded political parties to ensure the freedoms of South Africans are restored,” Mashaba said.

TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)

Nonkululeko Njilo

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