New bill seeks to limit Dlamini-Zuma’s power on the state of disaster
Cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s powers to extend the state of disaster could be cut should a new bill being discussed in parliament be passed into law.
Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald sponsored a private members bill which was on Wednesday adopted by the Cogta portfolio committee.
The bill seeks to curtail Dlamini-Zuma’s power to extend the state of disaster and give the power to the National Assembly.
It also aims to do the same in provinces and municipalities.
Dlamini-Zuma is opposed to the amendment.
“The Disaster Management Act does not provide adequate legislative accountability and oversight over the regulations published in terms of it, the duration of the state of disaster nor in respect of the extension of a state of disaster,” Groenewald said during his presentation to the committee.
He said in a constitutional democracy, legislation and regulations which have such an impact on citizens and their human rights should be subject to more legislative accountability, scrutiny and oversight.
SA is currently under a state of disaster in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The state of disaster was declared in March last year but Dlamini-Zuma has extended it several times for the national government to be able to keep lockdown regulations in place.
FF+ is one of the political parties that have gone to court to challenge Dlamini-Zuma’s powers given to her by the Disaster Management Act.
“The objectives [of the bill] are firstly to amend the Disaster Management Act in order to amend the duration of a state of disaster. Furthermore, the bill provides that only the National Assembly, the 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,” said Groenewald.
Ane Bruwer, from the National Disaster Management Centre, told the committee Cogta was opposed to the amendment of the act as it stands.
She said the proposed amendments to the act may be counterproductive.
“The minister, a premier and a council [are] sufficiently empowered by section 27.41 and 54.5 of the Disaster Management Act to make regulations, bylaws and directions. The courts have found the assignment of these functions is constitutional and functional,” said Bruwer.
She said the legislature should continue in its functions of oversight on the regulations for a state of disaster to ensure their applications were in line with the rule of law.
“The bill in its current format seeks to alter the system in a way that may be counterproductive and hamper the speed and efficiency in which a disaster should be managed,” said Bruwer.
Committee chairperson Faith Muthambi told the meeting the committee would take charge of the bill and send it out for public participation.