Today marks 14 months since the government declared the National State of Disaster. The move was in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus in March last year. It’s been extended for another month.

It will officially kick in from May 15 until June 15.

The new one-month extension was approved by Cabinet and gazetted a few days ago. The month-to-month extension to declare the National State of Disaster is done by invoking the Disaster Management Act.

The Act empowers the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister to extend the state of disaster on a month-to-month basis once the first three months have expired.

When the first three months expired in mid-June last year, the month-to-month extensions kicked in. The National State of Disaster has now been extended 12 times on a month-to-month basis – with the twelfth one starting today until mid-June.

Reactions to the extension

The National Freedom Party (NFP) has welcomed the extension of the National State of Disaster. The party says it is necessary as the third wave of coronavirus infections is looming.

NFP MP Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam explains why his party supports the extension.

“We are fast approaching the third wave and it is quite clear with the numbers that have increased considerably alone. There have been over 3 200 new infections in the country in areas like Gauteng, the Free State, the Northern Cape and North West in particular.”

“We are seeing quite a considerable amount of new infections in those particular areas. So in order to contain this virus and not have a repetition of what happened in the early stages of COVID-19, we believe indeed that the National State of Disaster should be extended for at least one further month,” he explains.

Discussion on growing concerns of a possible third wave:

ACDP warns against tighter lockdown restrictions

The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) leader Kenneth Meshoe says he hopes that the extension of the National State of Disaster will not be used to tighten lockdown restrictions as the third wave of coronavirus infections looms.

Meshoe is against the unending month-to-month extension. “We are hoping that we will not have another lockdown, that will definitely destroy our economy and the pieces that are left that business people are trying to put together that might also be lost. So  we are really hoping as the ACDP that it (State of Disaster) will soon come to an end or this matter will be taken to Parliament for a debate.”

“Because by now I think it’s been a year and two months that we are under the National State of Disaster. So the question is until when? Because we want to go back to normality,” explains Meshoe.

Meanwhile, the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) says it is still waiting for Parliament’s Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Committee to process his Private Members Bill to amend the Disaster Management Act.

The Bill was submitted towards the end of last year.

Groenewald wants Parliament to have oversight powers on the executive wherever a National State of Disaster is extended on a month-to-month basis.

Groenewald explains what his proposal to amend the Act entails. “Those amendments include for instance that Parliament will have to approve any further extension of any lockdown and that the regulations in terms of that specific lockdown must also be approved by Parliament and therefore I did follow up.”

“At this moment we are waiting for the committee to prioritise my specific Private Members Bill and we hope that it will happen soon. So that we can deal with those amendments and bring an end to the executive of South Africa not to account to Parliament when they extend.”

Government’s move to declare a National State of Disaster was in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus in March last year. The month-to-month extensions are done by invoking the Disaster Management Act.