SA now officially has one fewer national disasters, with drought off the books

Business Insider SA
  • The National Disaster Management Centre has formally revoked drought's status as a national disaster.
  • The widespread drought was declared as such in March, just as the coronavirus pandemic was brewing.
  • The official drought disaster was extended into July, technically giving government the same wide powers used to effect lockdown in dealing with the drought.
  • Good rains in several parts of the country have rapidly filled up dams.
  • For more stories go to

Drought is no longer considered a national disaster, the National Disaster Management Centre declared by publication in the Government Gazette on Thursday, leaving more resources and attention available to deal with the coronavirus pandemic – in theory.

Drought was declared a national disaster in early March, for the second time in less than two years, activating a three-month period during which the government could apply emergency powers to ameliorate its effects. That was extended by another month in June.

Both declarations went largely unnoticed, especially after the first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed, also in early March.

The powers the government wielded to deal with both disasters were identical, and identically untrammelled as long as government's actions were "necessary to prevent an escalation of the disaster, or to alleviate, contain and minimise the effects of the disaster".

But where the disaster regulations to deal with Covid-19 have affected every South African's daily life in a variety of ways, disaster powers were not wielded in a similar way on the drought.

The one disaster did get in the way of dealing with the other, though, in more ways than one. The national lockdown intended to curb the spread of Sars-CoV-2 had interfered with consultations with farmers, deputy President David Mabuza told Parliament in late June.

Mabuza simultaneously called on provinces to support farmers – and for such support to "take into account the diminishing fiscal resources and the negative impact of Covid-19", and the need to reprioritise spending to deal with the pandemic.

Good rains in various parts of the country have, in the meanwhile, taken the edge off the drought, most recently in the Western Cape and Namaqualand.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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