In a statement on Monday, the Democratic Alliance said that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had “swooped in at the last minute” to rescue Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel from a legal challenge the party was set to announce at 2pm.
Previously, the disaster regulation simply stated that “any food product including non-alcoholic beverages” was fine to be sold.
But a new amendment today has tidied up the loophole, with the new regulations reading “any food product, including non-alcoholic beverages, but excluding cooked hot food”.
Dlamini-Zuma “hurriedly amended the lockdown regulations to explicitly ban the sale of cooked foods in an attempt to put a lid on the public humiliation Minister Patel was subjected to after he stated on the 16th of April that ‘as the law stands’, the sale of cooked food was banned”, according to DA MP Dean Macpherson.
He said this statement had been unlawful at the time and “Patel had to rely on his Cabinet colleague to cure his legal nightmare”.
Only Dlamini-Zuma has the power to gazette new regulations related to the state of disaster declared by the president last month.
The DA was set to approach the High Court in Pretoria to lodge urgent papers to have Patel’s comments declared unlawful as well as seek a personal costs order against him.
However, Monday’s new amendment to the law legalised the previously illegal ban on cooked food.
The party called the move by government both “short sighted and mean spirited, especially for frontline health care workers, members of the security services, essential service workers and transport workers like truck drivers who rely on cooked food due to the work they are doing”.
Macpherson said it would also prove to be particularly devastating for the elderly, who may be unable to cook food due to their frailty.
“I will now write to Patel through our lawyers requesting the reasons for this ban on cooked and prepared food which should be provided to us by midday on Tuesday. We will then be able to decide on our next course of action.”
The DA said they would remain committed to ensuring the executive did not overreach its mandate.
“It is an important test case in the lockdown to ensure that ministers treat citizens with the respect they deserve and are held to account for their actions.”
Business group Sakeliga also threatened legal action against the department of trade and industry unless Patel reversed restrictions on warm or cooked foods.
The group had given Patel until 9am on Monday to respond or they would take legal action.
One of its points read: “There is no other provision in the lockdown regulation which prohibits the sale of any category of food.”
However, that has now changed with the new gazetted regulation.