Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Liberty Fighters Network wants national state of disaster declared unconstitutional

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Jun 1, 2020

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Pretoria - A group calling itself Liberty Fighters Network has turned to court in an urgent application to have the national state of disaster, established under the Disaster Management Act, declared unconstitutional and unlawful.

The group took Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to task before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, and argued that the Disaster Management Act must be declared invalid.

It is asking in the alternative that all gatherings be declared lawful as long as people adhered to the safety protocols, such as physical distancing and wearing masks.

Reyno de Beer of Derdepoort in Pretoria, who is representing the group, said in papers before court that the court should declare the Disaster Management Act regulations as invalid and illegal as they are unreasonable and violate the rights of almost every citizen in the country.

He said they not only controlled business activities which were being stifled, but also almost every aspect of everyday life. De Beer said any regulations promulgated under the act must comply with the Constitution.

According to him,the National State of Disaster, known as the lockdown, announced on March 15, was irrational and based on incorrect or unreliable advice. He said it was based on unconfirmed or unreliable international and national medical and health results. “It, among others, did not take our country’s unique socio-economic conditions into consideration,” he said. The group also questioned the government’s regulations on prohibiting most gatherings.

It said the current regulations, among others, prevented any protests against the actions of the government in relation to the national state of disaster.

Meanwhile, it was argued that the decision to use the Disaster Management Act to manage the Covid-19 crisis was unlawful. Further, it said a national state of disaster may only be declared if existing legislation or other contingency arrangements did not cater adequately with dealing with the disaster or if there were special circumstances that warrant the declaration of a national state of disaster.

Judge Norman Davis was told that the government could have used the International Health Regulations Act, under which the president could have enacted proper regulations overseen by Parliament. It was argued that the restrictions introduced by the Disaster Management Act regulations were unlawful as the country was not in a state of emergency. Only during a state of emergency can the government infringe on the Bill of Rights. The government opposed the application and Judge Davis reserved his judgment.

Business organisation Sakeliga is meanwhile also awaiting judgment after it too challenged the government’s Covid-19 lockdown regulations in court last week. Its chief executive Piet le Roux said the case involved the unlawfulness of permits and other government licensing requirements for businesses.

Sakeliga asked the court to set aside a range of licensing requirements implemented under the state of disaster regulations and to protect businesses, non-profit organisations and employees against unlawful obstruction and arrest. “The public is facing humanitarian, social and economic catastrophe because of government’s unreasonable and unlawful lockdown approach. Nineteen percent of businesses polled by Sakeliga expect to be bankrupt within a month,” he said.

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Pretoria News

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