Majority vote sees Disaster Management Amendment Bill rejected

Majority vote sees Disaster Management Amendment Bill rejected

The Disaster Management Amendment Bill has been rejected by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).

This comes after it was revealed during a National Assembly Programming Committee meeting last week that the committee had finalised its decision on the Bill, which was first introduced by Freedom Front Plus (FF+) MP Pieter Groenewald in February 2021.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the committee said it decided on to adopt the Bill following a majority vote because MPs “felt that the current accountability and oversight mechanisms provided in the Constitution are sufficient to address the gaps identified in the Bill”.

“The Bill sought to constrain the perceived power of the executive in relation to the duration of a state of disaster by means of affording Parliament, provincial legislatures and municipal councils the exclusive power to extend the duration of a national, provincial and local state of disaster respectively, as well as allow for the legislatures to exercise greater oversight in respect of the management of disasters,” the committee’s chairperson, Fikile Xasa, said.

“Following consideration of extensive inputs received from interested stakeholders, the majority of committee members voted against adopting a motion of desirability on the Bill,” he added.

Xasa explained that the committee rejected that Bill “on the basis that the principle of separation of powers among the three arms of the state would be violated if the legislature were allowed to encroach on executive functions, including the declaration and extension of states of disaster and the making of regulations pursuant to such a declaration”.

The committee chair confirmed that the Bill would now go to the National Assembly for a debate.

MPs in the National Assembly will vote on whether to pass the Bill after the debate, and proceed to the select committees for discussion.

It will then go to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for a debate and vote, before it is sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for approval, according to Parliament’s website on “how laws are made“.

The Bill could see some major changes to South Africa’s State of Disaster and Covid-19 lockdown regulations if it is signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Take a look at the proposed amendments:

  • The national State of Disaster may be effective only “prospectively” for no more than 21 days from the date of declaration, unless the National Assembly resolves to extend it.
  • The National Assembly may extend a national State of Disaster for no more than three months at a time.
  • The first extension of the national State of Disaster must be by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of a majority of the members of the National Assembly.
  • Any subsequent extension must be by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least 60% of the members of the National Assembly.
  • The resolution may only be adopted after a public debate in the National Assembly.
  • The Bill states that a Minister may terminate a national state of disaster by notice in the Government Gazette before it lapses.
  • Only the National Assembly, a provincial legislature or a municipal council may resolve to extend a declaration of a national, provincial or local state of disaster respectively and for how long.
  • While a copy of the notice declaring a national State of Disaster must be tabled by the minister, the National Assembly may disapprove of any regulations or directions made under such a declaration or may make recommendations to the minister pertaining to such regulations and directions.

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