Suzman Foundation asks ConCourt to clip Command Council's powers

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In an effort to remedy what they call the collapse in the separation of powers as brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) on Thursday filed papers in the Constitutional Court seeking urgent relief.

According to a statement issued by the foundation, they are asking for an order directing parliament and the executive to take immediate steps to initiate, prepare, consider and pass proper legislation relating to Covid-19.

"The Disaster Management Act vests extraordinarily wide-ranging legislative and executive powers in the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, to deal with issues arising out of occurrences like Covid-19. Under the Constitution, however, this law-making and executive power vests in parliament and the executive," reads part of the statement.

The foundation has taken the position that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her department have unilateral decision-making powers for as long as the Disaster Management Act is in place.

"In the aftermath of the declaration of the state of disaster, HSF submits, parliament and the executive ought actively to have taken steps to reclaim their constitutionally assigned roles. They have failed to do so. Instead, for two months, they permitted the minister, alone or with the National Coronavirus Command Council, to legislate the state's response to Covid-19. They appear content to allow their ultimate authority to be exercised by others, seemingly for as long as Covid-19 poses a threat."

However, the state has often informally countered that Dlamini-Zuma has been gazetting laws agreed upon by the council, and she does not make these decisions alone.

Speaking to the Citizen, Lungi Mtshali of the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs said that the HSF would have done well to try to understand how the law-making process works under the current circumstances before filing their application.

According to Mtshali, the minister merely promulgates regulations that have been discussed and agreed upon by cabinet.

Mtshali further explained that the minister's role was simply to ensure that there was consistency with the regulations being passed and that the regulations of one department did not interfere with that of another by undoing or impeding the work being done to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

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Citien reporter – Citizen

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