South Africa’s State of Disaster and its laws are as of this moment, still set to expire on the 15th of August 2020. With this being tomorrow, the question we're all asking is, what happens next?
As we are all well aware, President Cyril Rampahosa addressed the nation on the 15th of March 2020 on the Covid-19 world pandemic and declared the pandemic a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act. Subsequent to the declaration, regulations and directions were issued and passed in terms of Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act as a method of taking urgent and drastic measures to manage the virus, protect the citizens of our country and reduce the spread and impact of the virus on our society and on our economy.
Over the past few months the President has extended the state of disaster on several occasions, the last of which was on the 12th of July 2020. On the 12th of July 2020 the President extended the national state of disaster to the 15th of August 2020.
It is therefore important to note that in terms of Section 27(5) of the Disaster Management Act, the Act provides that a national state of disaster that has been declared in terms of subsection (1) lapses after three months after it has been declared, or it may be terminated by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in the Government Gazette before it lapses, or it may be extended by the Minister by notice in the Government Gazette for one month at a time before it lapses or the existing extension is due to expire.
So what happens next? It is important to note that if the national state of disaster lapses it will mean that the regulations and directions issued in terms thereof lapses too and will no longer be in force or effect. In terms of the Disaster Management Act it is thus understood that the regulations and directions issued to fight the Covid-19 pandemic will only remain in force for as long as there is a national state of disaster. If the national state of disaster lapses, the laws and regulations passed in terms thereof lapses too.
In terms of the Disaster Management Act it should be noted that there is no restriction on the amount of times that the national state of disaster may be extended. The Government can thus extend the national state of disaster one month at a time for as long as it is deemed necessary.
What can be expected by the citizens of South Africa? Because the number of infections and deaths are still very high, it is likely expected for the national state of disaster to be extended with a new set of regulations. It is also likely expected that the new set of regulations will ease the current restrictions imposed, such as perhaps moving to Alert Level 2, easing the curfew in terms of the hours, still allowing intra-provincial travelling and allowing inter-provincial travelling under strict conditions.
We therefore now wait in anticipation for the President to address the nation!