South Africa: Government Lockdown Powers Must Be Curbed in 2021

press release

The Democratic Alliances (DA) takes note of the criticism levelled by Human Rights Watch against the South African government and its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DA believes that the findings underscore our own view that the power of government to impose and prolong states of national disaster, on full display in 2020, has to be curtailed in 2021.

In a report released on Wednesday and covered in Business Day, Human Rights Watch pointed to the government's mistreatment of vulnerable groups, the prolonged closures of schools and the interruption to the National School Nutrition Programme during the lockdown.

To the list of lockdown-related human rights abuses the DA would add the use of excessive force, including the killing of Collins Khoza, and irrational restrictions on business and work that made it difficult for people to put food on the table.

Post-Covid the ANC will be remembered for three things: one of the world's longest and hardest lockdowns, the theft of disaster relief funds, and the failure to focus public resources on gaining early and widespread access to a vaccine.

But the risks of SA being governed under a perpetual state of national disaster, with little parliamentary oversight and no parliamentary veto, go beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

The health and wellbeing of ordinary South Africans should never again be made to depend on the whims and mercies of a corrupt and incompetent governing party.

This is why the DA is challenging the constitutionality of section 27 of the Disaster Management Act in court, but this issue should also be brought to the floor of Parliament.

Depending on the timelines and the outcome of the court case, the DA will this year prepare draft legislation to amend the Disaster Management Act to bring a future lockdown under parliamentary control.

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