Parliament to defend 'ill-conceived' Helen Suzman Foundation case over Covid-19 laws

03 September 2020 - 08:01 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise says the Helen Suzman Foundation's application challenging the government to pass legislation dealing with Covid-19, is "ill conceived".
National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise says the Helen Suzman Foundation's application challenging the government to pass legislation dealing with Covid-19, is "ill conceived".
Image: Trevor Samson/Business Day

National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise says an application by the Helen Suzman Foundation to force the government to pass “special” legislation to manage Covid-19 is “ill conceived”, “unwarranted” and “inappropriate”.

The Helen Suzman Foundation has gone to court to seek an order declaring that the government has failed to fulfil its constitutional obligation to initiate and pass laws to regulate its response to the threat and harm caused by Covid-19.

Modise, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet, and co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma are cited as respondents.

The matter is set down for hearing in the Pretoria high court on Thursday.

Modise says the relief sought by the foundation is “mistaken” in that there is no “mandatory” obligation on government to pass the legislation the foundation requires.

She said the Disaster Management Act was the legislation promulgated by parliament to provide for the government’s response to a national disaster including Covid-19.

According to Modise, parliament has complied with its obligation.

“The applicants have failed to point out any specific provisions of the constitution which require the respondents to initiate and pass such legislation,” her affidavit reads.

An order directing parliament to enact legislation, was Modise argued, “ineffective”.

“Even if the court found that parliament has failed to act in accordance with its constitutional obligation, the order the applicant seeks is impermissible because it is unenforceable.

“As a matter of fact, parliament has exercised oversight and scrutinised how [ Dlamini-Zuma] and cabinet have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and applied the Disaster Management Act.”

Modise said the Helen Suzman Foundation had not provided any “credible” evidence to prove that parliament’s exercise of its oversight role was “constitutionally” insufficient.

The application the foundation sought, Modise argued was “ill conceived”, “inappropriate” and “unwarranted”.

The foundation’s application was not urgent as its initial application for direct access to the Constitutional Court was dismissed in July.

“The failed application was based on the same facts and legal contentions that are the same or substantially the same as the present application,” Modise said.

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