The Democratic Alliance (DA) case against Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu was postponed in the Western Cape High Court on Friday, but not before an important reprieve was handed down.
The court ordered that government cannot be allowed to prevent people from exercising their existing rights to distribute and receive food.
The court ordered Zulu to bring this to the attention of social development officials in her department and MECs in all of the provinces. The commissioner of police was also ordered to bring this order to the attention of all police officials.
In a statement, the DA confirmed that for the next four weeks food distribution by NGOs would be able to continue as normal before the matter finally comes to court.
DA federal chairperson Helen Zille advised people running NGOs for the needy to keep a copy of the order on them.
If you, or anyone you know in an NGO or charity, runs soup kitchens and distributes food to the hungry, please make sure they print out this court order which says the govt can not prevent them from doing so, in terms of their existing rights. #DAFightsOn https://t.co/7UmuXIEPDN— Helen Zille (@helenzille) May 22, 2020
The DA brought the case after draft regulations, which they have described as "starvation regulations", started being enforced three weeks ago to shut down soup kitchens and place stiff regulations on the distribution of food parcels.
"This stopped food reaching thousands of hungry people as food relief NGOs were threatened with arrest if they did not stop. We believe thousands of people have suffered hunger and malnutrition because of this," said DA MP James Lorimer on Friday.
Zulu has defended the regulations, saying relief needed to be coordinated.
"This is clearly delusional as her department cannot even properly perform its current function, let alone instantly build a proper distribution network to millions of people."
The DA said it looked forward to taking the matter further in court on 19 June.
"Minister Zulu's callous action morally stained both her and the ANC government."
The minister has taken exception to the claim that her department stops NGOs from providing food.
A commissioner of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) recently said, however, that the department had violated the constitution by preventing the distribution of food.
On Thursday, Zulu told the portfolio committee on social development that there was a need for NGOs to work with her department to ensure there was a plan and compliance with Covid-19 protocols.
"The draft regulations were issued two weeks ago and have been applied even though they have not been legally processed," Lorimer said.
Lorimer said the DA would argue in court that the minister has no authority to issue such regulations, that the regulations are irrational, that Zulu didn't follow proper procedures and that the regulations contradict the constitutional right to food.
Lorimer said thousands of formal and informal NGOs have been feeding people and were well informed about where help is most needed.
"It should be the role of government to let them get on with it and fill in the gaps."
(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu and Charles Cilliers)
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