During a portfolio committee meeting on Tuesday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize proposed regulations to ‘control public behaviour’ once the country finally exits lockdown/national state of disaster.
The proposed regulations for when lockdown ends would be drafted into the National Health Act, meaning that the State of Disaster could soon end in favour of this new legislation. However, the plan may end up transferring a huge amount of power to Mkhize’s office with almost all oversight being held by the minister.
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This means that should another medical emergency occur in South Africa, Zweli Mkhize would get to call the shots. This has alerted the DA, who has called the proposition ‘deeply concerning’.
During Tuesday’s portfolio committee, health minister Mkhize made the following post lockdown proposals: The Minister of Health may “impose necessary restrictions, relating to such notifiable medical condition” by the mere publication of Government Gazette Restrictions. This may include:
- Complete or partial closing of any public place – (including a place used for public receptions, tourist activities or events or public recreation, amusement or entertainment activities or events.)
- Prohibition of movements between districts and provinces of people.
- Prohibitions of the use of ports of entry.
- Imposing curfews for people to remain indoors.
- Closing of educational institutions.
The DA are concerned by what they are calling a ‘power grab’. Siviwe Gwarube -the shadow health minister – is shocked by the notion that restrictions such as curfews and school closures could feasibly be implemented upon Mkhize’s request. Gwarube has demanded that Parliament hold a full sitting immediately to discuss the seriousness and implications of any possible law changes.
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“Zweli Mkhize’s late-night introduction of amendments to the Regulations and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions, 24 hours before the extended National State of Disaster under the Disaster Management Act expires, is really concerning,” Gwarube said.
“It gives an impression of a government desperate to retain power over its citizens even outside of a legitimate State of Disaster by giving powers to the Minister which will allow him and the Executive to impose far-reaching restrictions. These powers conferred to the Minister via the backdoor of the regulations make no provision for Parliamentary oversight.”
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“These regulations are attached to the existing National Health Act of 2003 and are now being amended to introduce sections akin to the Disaster Management Act – just to normalise snap government interventions. They give the Minister of Health, or more broadly, the Executive, unlimited powers to impose restrictions that will impede civil liberties.”
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