Dear SA challenges decision to extend national state of disaster
Organisation calls for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to give reasons for extension or face litigation
Civil rights organisation Dear SA is challenging the extension of the national state of disaster, and has called on co-operative governance & traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to give reasons for the extension or face litigation.
The extension of the national state of disaster was announced last Wednesday. It will now end on November 15. It was introduced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on March 15 to allow the government to put together regulations to help curb and deal with the spread of Covid-19.
In a lengthy letter addressed to Dlamini-Zuma on Tuesday, Dear SA, through its lawyers Hurter Spies attorneys, said the extension of the national state of disaster was “unlawful, unreasonable and reviewable”.
“The purpose of this letter is to express concern with the extension of the national state of disaster. Since the initial declaration of the national state of disaster, the SA landscape regarding Covid-19 has drastically changed and therefore the initiating circumstances that prompted the initial declaration have consequently largely disappeared,” the letter reads.
According to Dear SA, the decision to extend the national state of disaster was not rationally connected to the purpose for which it was declared.
“We have since the start of the pandemic gained valuable and insightful expert knowledge regarding the severity and infectiousness of Covid-19,” the organisation said.
“Our medical experts and epidemiologists have determined which groups are most at risk of contracting the coronavirus, and we have conclusively seen the virus poses limited risks to minors. We also know the vast majority of people are not susceptible to infection, something that was confirmed in March by the Diamond Princess cruise ship data.
“The case fatality rate (CFR) for children under 19 is 0%, and for adults under 50 it is less than 0.5%.”
Lockdown measures have had a “devastating” impact on the economy, it said.
“During April, May and June, when the most severe lockdown restrictions were in place, gross domestic product contracted by more than 16%, giving an annualised decline of -51%.
“In the second quarter of 2020 alone, SA shed 2.2 million jobs. Economic factors have been shown to have a calculable negative consequence on health outcomes, with poorer people living shorter lives.
“In addition, the lockdown restrictions have led directly to a negative health impact. There have been drastic reductions in attendance at TB and HIV clinics as well as cancer diagnoses. Research shows a decline in mental health and increases in calls to suicide lines during lockdown. Excess deaths in SA suggest the impact of lockdown on mortality is already being experienced,” the letter reads.
According to the organisation, the past seven months had given the health-care system an opportunity to prepare for peak infections.
“Treatment has improved enormously in that time with many new techniques reducing the mortality rate. Moreover, the peak of the Covid-19 wave passed months ago. As in other countries, most field hospitals and temporary facilities providing additional beds for infected people proved to be unnecessary and have been closed, undoubtedly because the wave has passed.
“As is evident, SA is no longer faced with the uncertainties it was confronted with when the initial state of disaster was enacted and declared,” said Dear SA.
“Our client believes the extension published on October 14 is irrational, unlawful, unreasonable, and therefore reviewable,” Hurter Spies attorneys said in the letter.
According to the lawyers, Dear SA requests the following from the Cogta minister:
- to be provided with written reasons why the national state of disaster was extended;
- to be provided with the documents and supporting documents, expert reports, evidence and data which support the decision to extend the national state of disaster;
- that the national state of disaster be terminated in terms of section 27(5)(b) of the act with immediate effect; and
- an undertaking that there will be no further extensions of the current state of disaster.
“Our client requests your urgent response by close of business October 30. Should our client not receive a response by the above-mentioned date, it will be compelled to approach the high court for appropriate relief,” the lawyers said.