/ 14 April 2022

DA, AfriForum again reject health Act amendments ahead of minister’s briefing

Who Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Visits Stellenbosch University Genomics Lab In South Africa
Health minister Joe Phaahla. (Photo by Leila Dougan/Daily Maverick/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Wednesday reiterated that the Democratic Alliance rejected the government’s proposed amendments to the National Health Act, which are set to replace regulations that fell under the recently lifted national state of disaster

He said the DA had submitted its official objections.  

Health minister Joe Phaahla gazetted the proposed amendments on 15 March. They would allow the health minister to implement or terminate lockdown levels, restrictions and regulations outside of a national state of disaster. 

Phaahla and his deputy, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, are expected on Thursday to brief the parliamentary health portfolio committee on the progress made regarding the amendments. 

The Western Cape’s head of health, Keith Cloete, said the DA wanted “a very nuanced and specifically defined and targeted set of preventions based on evidence” that would not restrict movement and social activities.  

It should be the Ministerial Advisory Committee and evidence that guide any actions in response to future waves of Covid-19, Cloete added.  

The committee had advised the government in mid-February to abandon all lockdown regulations.

Civil rights organisation AfriForum has also objected to the draft regulations, saying they are “outside of the intended scope of the legislation”.   

“It was never the legislature’s intention for these Acts to have such far-reaching effects and consequences,” according to AfriForum.

“The government is attempting to pull the wool over our eyes by permanently enacting a supposedly temporary state of disaster measures. The draft regulations are clearly nothing less than a desperate attempt by the government to cling to the unbridled power afforded to it during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Members of the public have until 15 April to comment on the proposed regulations. 

The Mail & Guardian recently reported that medical experts and political and economic analysts slammed the last extension to the Covid-19 state of disaster as a “power grab”, and an opportunity by the government to try to “push through” the contentious amendments. 

Shabir Madhi, the dean of the faculty of health sciences and professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, described the extension as one of “complete incompetence and an inability to understand where we are with Covid-19”. 

He said the move had resulted in “a perpetuation of regulations that are completely obsolete to the reality in regard to Covid-19”.

At the end of March, Madhi said the population had developed natural immunity because 70% to 80% of people had been exposed to the virus.