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Opposition parties unhappy with government keeping some Covid-19 regulations

Opposition parties on Monday said government was doing all it could to keep control by keeping some of the Covid-19 rules in place.
Opposition parties on Monday said government was doing all it could to keep control by keeping some of the Covid-19 rules in place.
Image: File / Masi Losi

South Africans should not accept the regulations that will remain in place after the termination of the state of national disaster on Tuesday, some opposition parties say.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the end of the national state of disaster on Monday but said the wearing of face masks indoors and the regulations on the number of people at gatherings still remained.

The DA and civil society group AfriForum on Monday said while they welcomed the lifting of the national state of disaster, they felt government still wanted to maintain control by keeping in place these regulations for the next 30 days as well as other regulations which will be tabled by the Department of Health in the weeks to come. 

“It is extremely worrying to us that despite the formal lifting of this state of disaster, our government now seems to be hell-bent on normalising the restrictions that we faced for so long by introducing regulations to the Health Act that will effectively normalise this very abnormal state of affairs and shift the power of unnatural regulations to the minister of health,” said DA national spokesperson Cilliers Brink.

The party had written a letter to health minister Joe Phaahla calling on him to retract the amendments, saying these were an “opportunistic attempt to extend the unilateral power that the SA government afforded themselves during the state of disaster”.

“We call on all South Africans to scrutinise these proposed amendments and to lodge their objection before or on April 16. We have suffered under these restrictions for 750 days. We cannot afford for it to be normalised,” Brink said. 

AfriForum agreed, saying keeping certain regulations in place would do little to change the status quo.

“The new health regulations amount to the permanent legal enactment of supposedly temporary measures afforded to the government under the Disaster Management Act. This means that most of the Covid-19 measures will remain in place, and some measures that were struck down in court such as forced quarantine, will take effect again,” the group said.

“AfriForum is currently preparing legal commentary in opposition to the new health regulations. The commentary will outline that the regulations are irrational and illegal,” it added.

Reiner Duvenage, campaign officer for strategy at AfriForum, said: “We as AfriForum strongly and unequivocally oppose the government’s sly and power-hungry actions. We owe it to our members and the general public to prevent this outrageous abuse of power.”

The group said it had already started a petition to oppose the health regulations which had so far garnered 25,000 votes.

The EFF also welcomed the end of the national state of disaster, saying the regulations put in place by the government had been “unscientific, irrational and inconsistent”.

“Cyril Ramaphosa has finally come to the realisation that the ad hoc power provisioned by a pandemic cannot be sustained forever,” the party said in a statement.

While Ramaphosa had pointed out the strides made by the country during the two-year battle against Covid-19, the EFF hit back at what it deemed the government’s failures to build a single new hospital, adding it had failed to even get the majority of the country to vaccinate.

“It must be stated that Ramaphosa presided over the death of our people,” the party said, adding that some of this was linked to corruption brought about by those working close with the president, allegedly including his former spokesperson Khusela Diko and ex-health minister Zweli Mkhize. Both were implicated in tender scandals amounting to millions during the pandemic.

On the regulations which will be outlined by the Department of Health after public comment, the EFF said it would carefully scrutinise these.

“We must ensure that government does not smuggle regulations into law which will give them power to micromanage the political terrain and enhance their capability to conduct illegal and corrupt procurement.”

Meanwhile, the GOOD party welcomed the end of the state of disaster, the regulations that remain and those that will be enforced by the Department of Health.

The party said the transitional rules are symbolic since for the most part South Africans have learnt to live with the virus and some precautions remain. 

“We accept these precautions as necessary in order to manage the transition to a virus that will remain endemic. SA, like the rest of the world, has navigated an unprecedented public health crisis and despite some criticism about the restrictions that have been imposed our government has managed the pandemic following the science and in line with the way the vast majority of countries have done so,” said party spokesperson Brett Heron.

“The imposition of restrictions and the regulations have brought us to this significant point where the state of disaster can be lifted and South Africans can now live with the virus with increased immunity and a readily available vaccine,” he added.

GOOD said it was now focused on rebuilding the economy to recover the jobs and businesses lost and to ensure that economic growth created even more employment and reduced inequality.

While Ramaphosa said the R350 social distress grant would remain for now, GOOD called on the government to plan for a permanent basic income guarantee for as long as the economy was not generating enough jobs.



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