South Africa facing a ‘phantom’ state of disaster

Opposition parties, civil society and business groups have hailed the government’s decision to lift South Africa’s state of national disaster after nearly two years – but nearly all warn the government is not has not completely relinquished control.

“The National State of Disaster ends in name, but the government is not giving up its regulatory powers obtained under it – that’s what President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement yesterday implied,” said the Sakeliga business group.

The group said it would refuse to replace temporary disaster measures with permanent responses and will therefore continue its work to oppose such measures and restore normalcy.

“We are urgently considering litigation and other options. Clearly, the government is “lifting” the temporary state of national catastrophe simply to avoid active litigation and loss of legitimacy, by framing it in new political configurations designed for permanence.

“Over the coming weeks, businesses, churches, employees, schools, universities, civil society organizations and the public in all other spheres of society will have to decide whether or not to comply with the new regulatory regime. . Crucial decisions lie ahead, regarding not only litigation but also compliance and denial, in the face of such abuse of power by the state.

Civil society group Afriforum also said the end of the country’s state of disaster is only symbolic and the announcement will do little to change the status quo.

He noted that the current Covid-19 regulations will remain in place for another month, after which the government’s new health regulations will come into effect.

“The new health regulations amount to the permanent legal enactment of so-called temporary measures granted to the government under the Disaster Management Act. This means that most Covid-19 measures will remain in place, and some measures that have been overturned by the courts, such as forced quarantine, will take effect again. »

Afriforum said it was also preparing legal comments against the new health regulations.

Standardization of restrictions

Those concerns are widely echoed by the opposition Democratic Alliance which said the government was aiming to “normalize” lockdown restrictions under the Health Act.

The regulations are not informed by the latest scientific evidence or expert advice from various experts in South Africa and abroad, he said.

“It appears that President Ramaphosa reneged on his word when he promised South Africans that no one would be forced to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, or that South Africa would soon lift the national state of disaster and the accompanying regulations.

“The people of South Africa cannot afford to be kept in further lockdowns after two already turbulent years of hardship and restrictions on their basic human rights.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters, the country’s third-largest political party, said they planned to further study the government’s proposed health regulations, but raised concerns about their long-term validity.

“We are simply ensuring that this government does not introduce regulation into law, which will give it the power to micro-manage the political terrain and enhance its ability to conduct illegal and corrupt purchases.”

Read: Here are the new rules replacing the state of disaster in South Africa