The proposed amendments to the Disaster Management Act of 2002 could see some major changes to South Africa’s State of Disaster and Covid-19 lockdown regulations, if it is signed into law,
The Disaster Management Amendment Act, which was first introduced by Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald on 19 February this year, has been made available for comment by Parliament’s portfolio committee on cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta).
Here are the key changes:
- The national State of Disaster may be effective only “prospectively” for no more than 21 days from the date of declaration, unless the National Assembly resolves to extend it.
- The National Assembly may extend a national State of Disaster for no more than three months at a time
- The first extension of the national State of Disaster must be by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of a majority of the members of the National Assembly.
- Any subsequent extension must be by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least 60% of the members of the National Assembly.
- The resolution may only be adopted after a public debate in the National Assembly
- The Bill states that a Minister may terminate a national state of disaster by notice in the Government Gazette before it lapses.
- Only the National Assembly, a provincial legislature or a municipal council may resolve to extend a declaration of a national, provincial or local state of disaster respectively and for how long.
- While a copy of the notice declaring a national State of Disaster must be tabled by the minister, the National Assembly may disapprove of any regulations or directions made under such a declaration or may make recommendations to the minister pertaining to such regulations and directions.
The Disaster Management Amendment Act will have to go through the portfolio committee, National Assembly, select committees, and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), in this order, before it is sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for approval.
The amendments, however, might not be passed if the African National Congress (ANC) does not support them, since the party holds the majority in Parliament.
The current national State of Disaster is due to expire on 15 August, after Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma gazetted the extension on 12 July.
The national State of Disaster under Section 27 (1) and Section 27 (2) of the Disaster Management Act was declared on 15 March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the multiple extensions have come under fire since it was first declared.
Many have argued that the Disaster Management Act gave the government complete freedom to act as it wished by extending the State of Disaster without parliamentary oversight.
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