• SA will now be in a national state of disaster until at least 4 July – on drought.
  • Co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma declared that extension on Wednesday.
  • That has no impact on the national state of disaster around the novel coronavirus, which is running concurrently with the drought state of disaster.
  • SA often has droughts declared national disaster, with much less impact on daily life than the pandemic declaration has had.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa will be in a national state of disaster until at least 4 July, giving the government broad powers to effectively rule by decree – when it comes to drought.

Co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday gazetted the one-month extension to her declaration of a drought disaster, which came into force in early March.

That has no impact on the separate, concurrent state of disaster around the novel coronavirus. 

See also: Two years later, SA’s drought has just been declared a national emergency – again

A state of disaster automatically lapses three months after its declaration, unless it is renewed before then. The Covid-19 state of disaster will lapse on 15 June. 

Both states of disaster give the government the power to rule by decree, making rules as it sees fit and putting them into immediate operation, without the need for approval by Parliament or the normal consultation processes required around policy.

But measures taken must relate to the disaster at hand, under rules that allow "steps that may be necessary to prevent an escalation of the disaster, or to alleviate, contain and minimise the effects of the disaster".

See also: Covid-19 has been declared a national disaster in SA – here’s what that means

Within those restrictions, The government can use its powers for any one of five distinct reasons:

  • "assisting or protecting" the public
  • providing relief
  • protecting property
  • fighting disruption
  • deal with "the destructive or other effects" of the disaster.

In March, Dalmini-Zuma said that "the impact of the persisting drought conditions in many parts of the country" and "taking into account the need to augment the existing drought relief interventions undertaken by organs of state", a national state of disaster was called for.

Unlike the Covid-19 disaster, the government has not decreed limitations on the movement of people or goods in order to alleviate the drought.

Drought was last declared a national disaster in March 2018. By the time that declaration was allowed to lapse, in June 2018, R433.52 million had been accessed, by way of various grants, for short-term relief. 

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