Court hears FF Plus challenge against Disaster Management Act

FF+ MP Wouter Wessels said government was using the Disaster Management Act to impose strict regulations with a serious impact on the lives of South Africans.
FF+ MP Wouter Wessels said government was using the Disaster Management Act to impose strict regulations with a serious impact on the lives of South Africans.
Image: 123RF/3DRENDERINGS

The full bench of the high court in Pretoria heard an application on Friday by the Freedom Front Plus seeking to have the Disaster Management Act declared unconstitutional.

Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo, judge Jody Kollapen and judge Raylene Keightley heard the application on a virtual platform, where counsel representing the president and the co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister (Cogta) opposed the application.

Judgment was reserved.

Explaining the reason for the application, FF+ MP Wouter Wessels said the government was using the Disaster Management Act to impose strict regulations with a serious impact on the lives of South Africans.

He said the party argued that the act did not make any provision for parliamentary supervision  when the state of disaster was declared.

"If you have the power to limit the rights of South Africans, there should be parliamentary supervision, and there should be a bigger oversight and debate regarding regulations that are imposed.

"That is why we are saying the Disaster Management Act should be declared unconstitutional," Wessels said.

He said in the alternative, the party sought an order that the use of the act to impose a lockdown was unlawful because the lockdown limited the rights contained in the bill of rights.

Wessels said there was very little difference between the state of disaster and a state of emergency.

"If there is a state of emergency, parliament would have had to debate the state of emergency, and parliament has the power to approve or disapprove regulations governing the state of emergency.

"With the Disaster Management Act, the minister can extend the state of disaster all the time. With the state of emergency, it can only be extended after 21 days with the vote of parliament."

The president and the minister opposed the application, arguing it was not urgent.

They argued that people's rights were not suspended by the act but were limited under the state of disaster.

They also argued that there was parliamentary oversight in the regulations made by the minister.


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