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South Africa’s economy has taken a massive knock from one of the world’s strictest Covid-19 lockdowns. Millions have lost their jobs as businesses have shut their doors under the immense financial burden of severely restricted business activity. Under legislation which some are calling draconian, the lockdown has sent unemployment rocketing to a seventeen year high. Experts and civil society have called for a rational review of lockdown measures around the world as Covid-19 is resurging. Businesstech takes a look at civil society group ‘Dear South Africa’s’ High Court bid to stop the latest lockdown extension- Melani Nathan
Dlamini-Zuma faces court challenge over latest lockdown extension
Civil society group Dear South Africa has approached the High Court to set aside the ‘lockdown extension’ which was introduced on 13 November. The group is arguing that the lockdown extensions are illogical and are being done without parliamentary oversight, as required by the Constitution.
Dear South Africa is also asking the court to declare the latest lockdown extension under the Disaster Management Act unlawful. “South Africa is no longer faced with the uncertainties that it was confronted with when the initial state of disaster was enacted,” said Daniel Eloff of Hurter Spies, the attorneys representing Dear South Africa. “Consequently, government cannot continue to piggyback on a state of disaster for which the underlying and motivating reason has largely dispersed eight months since the initial declaration of the national state of disaster.”
The only respondent in the case is Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She has until 18 November 2020 to oppose the matter.
In an affidavit before the court, Dear South Africa director Rob Hutchinson argues that Constitutional rights have been curtailed by the disaster regulations, including the rights to freedom of movement, residence, assembly, economic activity and education.
Businesses were shut down at the start of the Covid lockdown, schools were closed, and citizens’ rights to move and practice their professions and trades were severely curtailed. “While many of these restrictions on fundamental rights have been lifted, the (minister) has imposed these restrictions without parliamentary oversight and may reimpose them. “The (minister) is empowered to extend the state of disaster monthly ad infinitum without such oversight,” said the court application.
The group argues that if a second wave of infections occurs, the state has had ample time to prepare for this and a new state of disaster could be declared based on new circumstances that may arise. “It is improper to keep the current state of disaster perpetually in force on the basis that some new disaster may occur on some unknown date,” it said in its court application.
Government announced the extension of the current state of disaster on 14 November in a gazette published by Dlamini-Zuma. The current extension will now end on Tuesday, 15 December. While the state of disaster was originally set to lapse on 15 June, the act provides that the state of disaster may be extended by the Cogta minister – by notice in the gazette – for one month at a time before it lapses.
Government declared a national state of disaster under Section 27(1) and Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act on 15 March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
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