DA to challenge 'dictatorial madness' of Disaster Management Act

14 May 2020 - 13:34 By Aphiwe Deklerk
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen wants an end to the lockdown.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen wants an end to the lockdown.
Image: Freddy Mavunda © Financial Mail

The Democratic Alliance says it will go to court to challenge the government’s lockdown regulations.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen on Thursday said his party would fight to overturn every decision and regulation that is either irrational or immoral until “we have done what President Ramaphosa could not do: end the hard lockdown”.

“There are no rational justifications for a military-enforced curfew, a restriction on e-commerce business and a limited three-hour window for exercise,” said Steenhuisen.

“It is our opinion – and it is the view of many South Africans – that all three of these decisions should be immediately reversed.”

He said the national coronavirus command council was acting without any checks and balances. 

“The state of disaster we are currently under, governed by the Disaster Management Act, has zero provision for parliamentary oversight, which means this secretive national command council answers to no one,” said Steenhuisen.

“Now consider that not even a state of emergency, which is a further step up from a state of disaster, has such sweeping powers with no parliamentary oversight. There is no logical reason for this, and it surely could not have been the intention of the authors of the Disaster Management Act.”

He said the DA would file its papers on Friday challenging that aspect of the Disaster Management Act. 

“Unless the act meets constitutional muster, the decisions taken by the national command council under this act are not valid. This is an extremely important case because it speaks to one of the most crucial principles in our democracy: the separation of powers.”

Because of this lack of oversight, Steenhuisen said during the lockdown the executive was effectively doing the job of writing laws and regulations as they please, bypassing all the debate and possible opposition that would’ve happened in parliament.

“We have to fight this, because from here our democracy finds itself on a very slippery slope. What we will be asking the court is to apply the same oversight provisions to the state of disaster as to the state of emergency.”

Steenhuisen rubbished a number of regulations under the lockdown, including on e-commerce and the sale of cigarettes, alcohol, winter clothes and cooked food.

“None of these things make any difference in delaying the spread of the virus. They’re all just a massive over-reach by the kind of ministers who should be nowhere near such power. If we want to prevent this kind of dictatorial madness, then we have to stop it at the source.” 

He said the legal challenges by his party will stand in the way of a slide towards a one-party fiefdom, where laws and regulations are simply issued by decree. 

“It is in every single South African’s interest that we succeed.”