Pretoria - President Cyril Ramaphosa has abandoned his declaration of a national state of disaster in the country following a legal challenge by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
The applicants, Outa, were informed of the decision through a letter from the State Attorney’s office this morning informing them that the government had not only abandoned the state of national disaster but would also not challenge the Outa legal case.
Commenting on the letter, Outa’s executive director, Advocate Stefanie Fick, said: "This is a huge win for civil society. We are delighted. Civil society showed that we have a voice, and our voices matter. In principle, this case is done and dusted.”
Fick said Outa was formally notified of the withdrawal in the State Attorney’s written response today as part of Outa’s legal action to review and overturn the decisions to declare the state of disaster.
The State Attorney has offered to pay Outa’s wasted court costs in the case.
She said the State Attorney’s letter came while Outa was waiting for the state’s answering affidavits, which were overdue, saying the matter was due for a case management meeting with the judge on April 12, at which Outa planned to ask for an expedited court date for the hearing.
“We are instructed that the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), in consultation with the relevant Cabinet members, has decided to terminate the state of disaster in accordance with section 27(5)(b) of the Disaster Management Act, 57 of 2002 and to repeal the State of Disaster Regulations promulgated in Government Gazette No. 48145, GNR 3089 on February 27 2023.
We are further instructed that the head of the National Disaster Management Centre has decided to revoke the classification of the impact of the severe electricity supply constraint as a national disaster,” wrote the Pretoria State Attorney to Outa’s lawyers.
“The Minister of Cogta and the head of the National Disaster Management Centre will implement these decisions today through the publication of the relevant notices in the Government Gazette.”
Minister of Cogta Thembi Nkadimeng is due to address the media on their decision later today.
In the letter, the State Attorney said that this would make Outa’s application moot, and asked Outa to withdraw it and proposed a joint letter to the court to confirm this.
“We invite the applicants to withdraw their applications. The first to fifth respondents tender the costs of the two applications and will consent to an order on these terms. The state respondents do not intend filing an answering affidavit addressing the merits of either application.”
Outa’s case challenging the state of disaster was filed in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria on February 16, as an application to review and overturn the decisions.
Fick said Outa believed that the electricity shortage was a crisis, but brought the case over concerns that the disaster regulations would be used to enable corruption, while existing law could be used to manage the crisis.