Constitutional Court denies DA direct access for disaster act challenge

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

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

Published Jul 1, 2020


CAPE TOWN - The Constitutional Court on Wednesday denied the DA direct access for a legal challenge to the Disaster Management Act.

"The Constitutional Court has considered this application for direct access. It has concluded that the application should be dismissed as it is not in the interests of justice to hear it at this stage," the judges said in letter to the parties.

The government had opposed the application. The court decided not to award costs.

The official opposition party had launched an ambitious challenge to the constitutionality of the act in terms of which president Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster in March in response to the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak in South Africa.

The party said it takes issue with section 27 of the act in as far as it concentrates power in the hands of the minister of cooperative governance, and allows the incumbent to pass regulations without parliamentary oversight.

It wanted the apex court to declare this part of the act unconstitutional, for allegedly flying in the face of the principle of separation of powers, and asked that the matter be heard urgently.

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.

The DA is set to hold a press conference on Thursday morning to comment on the setback.

Should the DA turn to the high court instead, it is likely that the government will appeal any adverse 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.

Cooperative governance minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma asked for leave to appeal a damning high court ruling that found that most of the regulations she gazetted were irrational and therefore unconstitutional.

Judge Norman Davis found that the minister had erred in failing to infringe on freedoms to the smallest degree necessary to achieve the aim of protecting the public from a severe health threat.

Davis this week granted the minister leave to appeal his ruling but only with regard to his "blanket" finding of irrationality in terms of most regulations passed by her pertaining to the lockdown. 

Where he had expressly mentioned particular regulations as patently irrational, he held that there would be no prospect of success on appeal, and gave the minister 10 days to review and redraft these.

African News Agency

Related Topics: