Level 3 coming soon? Dlamini-Zuma misses parly meeting to deal with regulations

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The absence of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, at a parliamentary meeting – because she was busy with the regulations for alert Level 3 of the lockdown – raised some concern from an opposition MP…

At the start of the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements on Monday evening, committee chairperson China Dodovu registered Dlamini-Zuma's apology for her absence at the virtual meeting.

"She is busy with the regulations for the third level of the coronavirus [lockdown]," Dodovu said.

Last Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country will drop to Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown by the end of May, but some parts of the country with higher infection rates of Covid-19 will remain at Level 4.

On Friday, the Presidency said the country could migrate to Level 3 before the end of the month

A precise date has not yet been given, but the fact that Dlamini-Zuma is working on regulations can be viewed as a strong indicator that it will be sooner rather than later.

But not everyone was pleased with Dlamini-Zuma's absence.

DA MP George Michalakis raised his concern and asked that the committee schedule a meeting with her for this week.

He said he appreciated the presence of both her deputy ministers, Obed Bapela and Parks Tau, but they are not part of cabinet.

He said she had not, in the past year, appeared before the committee, apart from a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs last week, which she had to leave early.

"We're currently under lockdown and it is six o'clock in the evening. There are very few excuses not to be available," Michalakis said.

"We're currently under lockdown and it is six o'clock in the evening. There are very few excuses not to be available," Michalakis said.

Dodovu said he understood Michalakis' point and they would have a meeting with the minister soon. But he added that he also had sympathy for Dlamini-Zuma.

"We all know our minister – she accounts to this committee, and is the head of the team who makes the regulations," he said.

Her absence at the committee wasn't the only time on Monday when she drew the DA's ire.

DA MP Dean Macpherson asked her in a written question for information on the public submissions her department received and relied on to make changes to the regulations when the lockdown level was lowered to Level 4

Dlamini-Zuma justified the controversial decision to keep the ban on the sale of tobacco products, saying she had 2 000 submissions in support of the ban.

Her answer to Macpherson's question read: "The information requested by the Honourable Member is not readily available in the department. The information will be submitted to the Honourable Member as soon as it is available."

In a statement, Macpherson said Dlamini-Zuma's claim to not have ready access to the requested information is "dubious at best".

"South Africans were assured that the easement of the lockdown from Level 5 to Level 4 was an informed decision. We were assured that every decision made during the lockdown would be made on the basis of public participation and scientific research," he said.

"The one thing very apparent about the minister and quite a few of her colleagues are that they seem bloated on their newfound power and enjoy playing god over people's lives, trying to control every aspect of it.

"It should have been the easiest thing in the world for the minister to produce the requested information. It is, after all, this information that was used to for the entire risk-adjusted strategy."