POLITICAL WEEK AHEAD: Lockdown levels and cigarette ban in the spotlight
Legal battles over the constitutionality of the lockdown regulations will be a feature of the coming week.
Though no date has been set yet, the government is expected to bring an application for leave to appeal against the finding by Pretoria high court judge Norman Davis that levels 3 and 4 of the regulations are unconstitutional and invalid.
The cabinet indicated last week that it intended to appeal against the judgment on an urgent basis, saying the application will be brought in the name of co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the minister responsible for the implementation of the Disaster Management Act and the lockdown regulations, as well as President Cyril Ramaphosa and health minister Zweli Mkhize.
The judge gave Nkosazana-Zuma 14 business days to review and amend the regulations to bring them into line with the bill of rights in the constitution. The legal challenge against the regulations was brought by Reyno de Beer and his organisation the Liberty Fighters Network.
On Tuesday and Wednesday the high court in Pretoria will hear the legal challenge against the rationality of the ban on the sale of tobacco products under the lockdown brought by lobby group Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita), which represents small manufacturers. The ban, which has resulted in a spike in the illicit trade of cigarettes, has also cost the SA Revenue Service billions of rand in lost excise duty.
Dlamini-Zuma has argued that the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products that has been in place for more than two months was meant to protect human life and health, and to reduce the potential strain on the health-care system during the Covid-19 pandemic. The minister said in an affidavit presented to court there was evidence that the use of tobacco products increases not only the risk of transmission of Covid-19, but also the risk of developing a more severe form of the disease.
Government schools will open on Monday for grades 7 and 12, though Western Cape schools opened last week. The preparedness of schools in terms of personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitisation and hygiene will be in the spotlight.
Another burning issue that could erupt this week is the concern of health workers over the lack of PPE. Public hospitals have come under focus for alleged breaching of Covid-19 health and safety regulations, amid growing fears they are becoming breeding grounds for the virus.
Parliamentary committees will also continue to focus on the ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic. On Tuesday the tourism portfolio committee will be briefed by the Tourism Business Council of SA on its response to the government’s risk-adjusted strategy.
On Wednesday, parliament’s two health committees will be briefed by the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) on its strategies and plans to deal with Covid-19 test results and backlogs as well as by the Life Healthcare Group and Netcare on their state of readiness for Covid-19.
Also on Wednesday, the portfolio committee on co-operative governance and traditional affairs will be briefed by Buffalo City metropolitan municipality on its plans to respond to Covid-19 in the context of the rising level of infections in the Eastern Cape.
On Thursday, the SA Police Service (SAPS) will brief the police portfolio committee on the implementation of the judgment on the death of Collins Khoza, who died after being beaten by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers for apparently drinking beer in his yard.
The ministers of defence and police were ordered by judge Hans Fabricius to draw up a code of conduct for all the security forces with guidelines for their behaviour and interaction with civilians during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
Also on Thursday, the co-operative governance and traditional affairs committee will meet officials from the city of Cape Town on its Covid-19 response plans in the light of the Western Cape being the epicentre of the epidemic.
Non-Covid-related committee meetings will include the joint meeting of the standing committee on public accounts and the public enterprises portfolio committee, which will be briefed by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan on the SA Express liquidation process.
On Tuesday, the higher education, science and technology committee will be briefed by minister Blade Nzimande on the establishment of a ministerial task team to review the business processes of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
On Wednesday, the two public enterprises committees will be briefed by arms manufacturer Denel and forestry company Safcol on the implementation of their turnaround plans.
The National Assembly will hold two plenary sessions — one on Tuesday to deal with various bills and reports and another on Friday to process the Appropriations Bill.