The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to appear before Parliament to explain her decision of Friday, 14 January, to extend the Covid-19 national state of disaster for yet another month.
The Minister has now extended this declaration 21 consecutive times in the past two years without any account to Parliament or the South African people, and without any apparent concern for what this is doing to the constitution and the economic prospects of ordinary South Africans.
As if to underscore the careless manner in which government decisions are made, in default of clear direction and strategy, the wording of the latest extension notice has not changed.
In essence, the minister claims that the government cannot deal with the Covid-19 pandemic under ordinary laws. If this claim was true at the outbreak of Covid-19, when the pandemic posed a serious risk to the health system, it is no longer true today.
Here then are the questions that the DA would like the Minister to answer in person, in a Parliamentary debate of national importance:
- Why should a national state of disaster remain in place, even if evidence suggests that the Omicron variant is less harmful than previous strands of the virus?
- Why, after nearly two years under a national state of disaster, has government not devised alternative laws and policies to deal with health-related disasters?
- And, if it is absolutely necessary to declare a national state of disaster in future, when it actually exists, what prevents the government from doing so at such time?
- It is also telling that while at least three provinces cry out for a state of disaster to be declared following floods, storms, droughts or devastating weather, they are left hanging as the Covid SoD approaches 700 uninterrupted days.
The DA does not believe that South Africa can prosper with the sword of another lockdown hanging over our heads. This was also DA leader John Steenhuisen’s message to President Cyril Ramaphosa last week.
Not only does a perpetual national state of disaster establish a dangerous constitutional precedent, it makes economic recovery near impossible (especially if the other constraints to growth are taken into account).
Both at home and internationally, people simply do not trust the ANC government to make rational and effective decisions, whether in response to the Covid-19 pandemic or the public violence that spilled over from ANC’s ongoing factional fighting.
The last thing such a government should be entrusted with are extra-constitutional powers that allow ministers like Dlamini-Zuma to make their own laws with the stroke of the pen without Parliamentary concurrence and without public consultation.
South Africa does face a national disaster, but at present it is not the Omicron variant, or even the risk of further Covid-19 variants. The real disaster is the economic slump in which the country finds itself, and which locks millions of South Africans into poverty. This disaster has only been worsened by the ANC’s response to Covid-19.