The national State of Disaster will be extended by another month yet again following Cabinet approval this week.
Cabinet confirmed the extension in a statement, which was approved after consultations were held through the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJOINTS) on Wednesday.
“Cabinet was apprised on the work that has been undertaken through [NatJOINTS] to determine the extent to which the management of the Covid-19 pandemic still required the existence of the national State of Disaster.
“Inputs were received from various government departments to determine their respective areas of work that are at an advanced stage of completion.
“However, after noting that some of the key departments dealing with Covid-19 had not yet concluded their analysis, Cabinet approved the final extension of the national State of Disaster to 15 March 2022,” the statement reads.
687 days of lockdown
South Africa has been in lockdown for at least 687 days as of Saturday, 12 February following the declaration of the national State of Disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March 2020.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is expected to officially gazette the latest extension.
The current extension would have ended on Tuesday, 15 February.
However, this will only be done once new regulations outside of the Disaster Management Act is finalised.
“We are now ready to enter a new phase in our management of the pandemic. It is our intention to end the national state of disaster as soon as we have finalised other measures under the National Health Act and other legislation to contain the pandemic.
“Nearly all restrictions on economic and social activity have already been lifted. Vaccines have proven to be the best defence we have against illness and death from Covid-19.
“If we all get vaccinated, continue to observe basic health measures and remain ever vigilant, we will be able to get on with our lives even with the virus in our midst,” the President said.
The country is currently on adjusted level 1 lockdown, with the latest changes implemented on 31 January.
Extension after extension
The multiple extensions have come under fire.
Many have argued the Disaster Management Act gave government unfettered freedom to act as it wishes by extending the State of Disaster without parliamentary oversight.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) have also repeatedly called for the State of Disaster to be scrapped.
When Dlamini-Zuma extended the state of disaster in January, DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille tweeted at the time that the extension had nothing to do with Covid-19, but rather the government’s attempt at maintaining “centralised control”.
Additional reporting by Vhahangwele Nemakonde