Home South African DA says it will take disaster law challenge to high court

DA says it will take disaster law challenge to high court

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“This will delay our action, but it most certainly will not deter us.”

John Steenhuisen. File photo: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)

THE DA will take its legal challenge of the Disaster Management Act to the high court after the Constitutional Court denied it direct access, party leader John Steenhuisen said on Thursday.

“What this now means – having been denied direct access to the country’s highest court – is that we will have to make our way more slowly through the court system in order to contest an issue with clear and urgent constitutional implications,” Steenhuisen said.

“This will delay our action, but it most certainly will not deter us.”

Steenhuisen reiterated that the official opposition believed the act fails the constitutionality test because it does not provide for parliamentary oversight of decisions and regulations adopted by the executive during a state of disaster, like the one in place since mid-March in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

“The legislative and executive functions of the state have effectively been merged. Government’s National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) now fulfils both these roles,” he said.

Steenhuisen added that this had allowed the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to issue directives with no parliamentary oversight. Not even a state of emergency gave the executive such unfettered power.

“The relief we sought was for the same provisions of oversight that exist during a state of emergency to be read into the Disaster Management Act.”

There has been considerable criticism of both the manner in which the government has passed regulations and the actual content of the regulations, which have severely, and at times seemingly arbitrarily, restricted economic and everyday activity.

However, legal experts have said it would be prudent to distinguish whether the law itself was problematic or if it was the manner in which it had been applied by the government as it set about trying to slow the spread of the virus.

If the DA were to succeed in the high court, the government would likely appeal the ruling, meaning it could take many months before finality is reached on the issue.

The application was one of a raft of legal challenges to the manner in which the government has imposed lockdown regulations on the country.

Dlamini Zuma is appealing a damning high court ruling that found that most of the regulations she gazetted were irrational and therefore unconstitutional.

– African News Agency (ANA)