Should the national state of disaster continue past Thursday? Here are some reactions
The national state of disaster is due to come to an end on Thursday, and plans on whether it will be extended are yet to be announced.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster on March 15 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The declaration was made to enable government to put together an integrated and co-ordinated disaster management plan that would focus on preventing and reducing the spread of Covid-19 infections.
It was initially due to end on June 15 but was extended to July 15.
However, due to the number of Covid-19 cases being reported at the time, cooperative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma extended it again by a month to August 15.
Just before it was due to end, Dlamini-Zuma pushed it to September 15.
The reason for the extension, Dlamini-Zuma explained at the time, was “taking into account the need to continue augmenting the existing legislation and contingency arrangements undertaken by organs of state to address the impact of the disaster”.
Just days before it was due to end in September, the state of disaster was extended to October 15.
The extension was approved to “continue giving effect to the regulations that remain relevant to manage the spread of Covid-19 infections”, said government spokesperson Phumla Williams.
“Cabinet welcomes the drop in the number of new confirmed Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks and the improved recovery rate that has increased to 87%. The number of people requiring admission in our hospitals and the demand for Covid-19 tests have also dropped,” she said.
Time for it to end for good?
On Monday, DA leader John Steenhuisen called on Ramaphosa and the cabinet to resist the urge to again extend the state of disaster and instead end the lockdown.
He said both the state of disaster and lockdown should have ended five months ago.
“The state of disaster undermines democracy, oversight and policy certainty. Extending it will be no more than a continuation of the government’s attempt to use bad science to promote a climate of fear that gives false legitimacy to the ANC’s growing authoritarianism,” said Steenhuisen.
“The main things SA’s lockdown has achieved is a catastrophic increase in poverty, unemployment and inequality, with poor people and young people paying the highest price for what has largely been an ineffective policy.”
Steenhuisen proposed that the government:
- lift all restrictions on international travel;
- lift all restrictions on the trade of alcohol;
- lift the curfew; and
- allow schooling to return to normal operations.
What does the WHO say?
The World Health Organisation's (WHO) special envoy for Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro, said countries should stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method”.
He told The Spectator WHO does not advocate lockdowns as the primary means to control the spread of the cornonavirus.
“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it,” he said.
“We appeal to world leaders to stop using lockdown as your primary control method. Develop better systems for controlling the virus. Work together and learn from each other.
“Lockdowns have one consequence that you must never belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.”
Social media reacts
Social media users said they were not holding their breath and will see when the time comes.
Here is a snapshot of what they had to say:
After consultations President Cyril Ramaphosa will present an economic recovery plan to parliament on Thursday, 7 months after he declared a nat state of disaster on 15/3. But don’t hold your breath.— Chong Wong (@CorruptionBeat) October 12, 2020
South Africa is now 200 days into a lockdown that was meant to be 21 days to prepare our health services. We're over the surge (confirmed by the health minister) and hospital capacity didn't come close to full utilisation. Will state of disaster be extended this week? If so, why?— Nic Norman-Smith (@nicns) October 12, 2020
We are still on Level 1 when we should have been Level Zero months ago. A 21-day State of Disaster has turned into an economy-destroying multi-month marathon lasting more than half the year. And people are just accepting their own oppression.— Guerrilla Media 🇦🇲 (@Paratus2014) October 10, 2020
Disaster Management Act: Disaster means an occurrence which threatens to cause death and is of a magnitude that exceeds the ability of those affected to cope using their own resources.— Shayne Krige (@shaynekrige) October 12, 2020