Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) held a virtual meeting with the Minister of CoGTA, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to discuss unintended consequences of the disaster management regulations that were introduced when the government declared a nationwide lockdown to try curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Faith Muthambi, said CoGTA, as a lead department in coordinating the state of the national disaster, must heighten its efforts to ensure public awareness with regard to the regulations of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“It doesn’t help to gazette regulations and the people affected by them are not aware of them, you must explain to the users and those who have to enforce the regulations,” said Ms Muthambi.

Committee member, Mr Haniff Hoosen, warned about frustrations on some of the restrictions contained in the lockdown regulations and advised the government to revisit them.

“You need to revisit the hot food regulations, there are some food items that are hot foods that are necessary, some of the restrictions are creating an impression that the government is becoming heavy-handed, we appeal to you Minister to go back and relook some of the unreasonable and unjustifiable regulations,” Mr Hoosen said.

Responding to a question from a member of the committee on when can South Africans expect to see the relaxing of some of the lockdown regulations, the Minister warned that the “end of the lockdown would not mean that things will be back to normal”.

“Please note that it does not mean when the lockdown ends everything will be back to normal, unlocking will be done in phases, there might be localised lockdowns in areas where there is high prevalence of the virus, like Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

“Gatherings will remain banned, if we go back to big gatherings immediately when we end the lockdown, we will be undoing everything that we were trying to do with the lockdown,” the Minister said.

Minister Dlamini-Zuma also told the committee that while the Covid-19 crisis presents an unprecedented and unmatched challenge since the Spanish flu and the Great Depression, it also presents an opportunity for South Africa to accelerate the implementation of some long-agreed upon structural reforms to transform its economy.

These, she said, will positively impact on key economic and social sectors which will facilitate for a more inclusive economy whilst unlocking local production and export potentials.

“Evidence from the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 shows that the long-term economic consequences for cities experiencing high infection rates were significantly worse than for cities enduring temporary restrictions on economic activity.

“This will require that South Africa sequences and phases its priority areas with the view of deepening the fight against Covid-19, while rebuilding the economy,” Dr Dlamini-Zuma said.

The committee also welcomed the department’s plans to announce a regulation to ban traditional initiation across the country this year.

By Sakhile Mokoena
22 April 2020