DA not deterred, will still challenge DMA in court – Steenhuisen

DA's John Steenhuisen. Picture: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo

Steenhuisen said they will now have to work their way through the lower courts to fix what he called flaws in the DMA.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said the party is not deterred by the order of the Constitutional Court dismissing their application for direct access to challenge the constitutionality of the Disaster Management Act (DMA).

“What this now means – having been denied direct access to the country’s highest court – is that we will have to make our way more slowly through the court system in order to contest an issue with clear and urgent constitutional implications. This will delay our action, but it most certainly will not deter us,” he said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the apex court ruled it would not be in the interests of justice to hear the matter.

“It has concluded that the application should be dismissed as it is not in the interests of justice to hear it at this stage. The Court has decided not to award costs,” the judgment read.

Steenhuisen said this is not the end of their fight.

“It is our view that, in its current guise, the Disaster Management Act, under which a State of Disaster was declared in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, does not pass constitutional muster. The reason for this is that it has no provision for parliamentary oversight, and this means that the legislative and executive functions of the state have effectively been merged. Government’s National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) now fulfils both these roles,” he said.

Steenhuisen insisted that the law gives Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma the power to extend the state of disaster indefinitely without any real oversight.

“Not even a State of Emergency places such unfettered and indefinite power in the hands of a minister or the executive.”

Steenhuisen said the reason they applied for direct access to the Constitutional Court was to “urgently remedy this flaw”.

He said it will now take the DA longer to get the relief they seek from the courts.

In response, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the government asked the court not to grant the DA direct access.

In court papers filed on 19 May, Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma argued that the DA’s application was not urgent and did not warrant the Constitutional Court’s truncated time periods.

They further argued that the act does not usurp the role of Parliament.

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