Lockdown: DA calls for parliamentary oversight of state of disaster in Concourt bid

John Steenhuisen.
John Steenhuisen.
Felix Dlangamandla

The DA claims in Constitutional Court papers that the national lockdown under the Disaster Management Act (DMA) is unconstitutional, and it has called for the legislation to be amended to give the National Assembly more oversight powers.

The party is taking the government to court in two separate matters which challenge the validity of some aspects of the lockdown.

On Thursday, DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach filed an affidavit on behalf of the party in an urgent application in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. In her 170-page affidavit, Breytenbach argued that President Cyril Ramaphosa should have declared a state of emergency, adding that the regulations enforced under the DMA were unconstitutional. 

READ | Level 4 lockdown regulations resemble state of emergency - DA argues in urgent court application

Meanwhile, in an 111-page affidavit to the Constitutional Court, DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said the Act violated the constitutional principle of the separation of powers because there was no effective parliamentary oversight.

Steenhuisen said the DMA allowed for the unconstitutional delegation of Parliament's powers to the executive and gave Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma "exceedingly broad powers".

The DMA also does not allow for the oversight role that the Constitution requires of a state of emergency, he submitted.

In addition, Steenhuisen argued that the National Assembly was not allowed to scrutinise executive action, as was constitutionally required. 

PROFILE | John Steenhuisen: ‘The DA is in a far healthier position than it was a year ago’

"For seven weeks, the country has existed in under what can only be described as a de facto state of emergency, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. South Africans have been locked up in their houses. Businesses have been precluded from operating. Thousands have been arrested. A curfew has been imposed while the army, 76 000 strong, patrols the streets outside," Steenhuisen says.

"And yet the president has not declared a state of emergency … and Parliament has been given no say in any of this".

Parliamentary oversight

The court application is not an effort to end the national lockdown, Steenhuisen's affidavit explains, but rather to ensure parliamentary oversight of the national state of disaster.

"Everything the president, the minister and the members of the National [Coronavirus] Command Council have done to date would remain invalid unless Parliament determines otherwise," he said.

The party is requesting an amendment to the Act to, while preserving the Minister of Cogta's powers, require the minister to table in Parliament any declaration of a state of national disaster, any regulations and directions under it and any extension of the state of disaster.

The amendment would empower the National Assembly to, by resolution, invalidate any such declaration, regulation, direction or extension.

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