The Democratic Alliance (DA) will introduce draft legislation to limit the power of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to extend a national state of disaster and to issue lockdown regulations.
Last week a notice to this effect was published in the Government Gazette calling on interested parties and institutions to submit written representations on the proposed content of a draft Disaster Management Amendment Bill which the DA will introduce.
Currently Parliament has no role in the decision of the minister to declare and extend a national state of disaster. Unlike in a state of emergency, Parliament also has no power to disapprove of regulations issued under such a declaration.
This constitutional loophole has led to economically devastating abuse of power by government and compelled businesses and organisations to go to court for information that should have been tabled and debated in Parliament.
The DA’s proposed amendments reflect the case we have made in court against the constitutionality of Section 27 of the Disaster Management Act and the remedies which we seek. Regardless of whether or not we win this case, the issue has to be brought to the floor of Parliament.
The aim of the bill is to close the loopholes for ministerial lawmaking and a command style government. This could in our view be achieved by inter alia:
Requiring the minister to promptly table in Parliament any declaration of a national state of disaster, any regulations made and directions issued pursuant to such a declaration, any any proposed extension of a national state of disaster;
Empowering the National Assembly to, by resolution, invalidate any such extension, regulations or directions.
The DA calls on South Africans who share our concerns to give their input on the content of the bill.