Government to implement state of emergency only as last resort

Monday, March 16, 2020

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says government will only implement a state of emergency in response to the Coronavirus outbreak as a last resort.

“At this stage, we really believe that the interventions, as per the advice of the Health Department, can be done through the state of disaster. A state of emergency will be used as a measure of last resort,” he said. 

Lamola was speaking at a briefing in Pretoria on Monday, where Ministers outlined government’s intervention to the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in the country. 

The briefing followed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of the virus as a national disaster, following a special Cabinet meeting on Sunday. 

The meeting was held as the number of Coronavirus cases climbed to 51 on Sunday morning. By the time of the President's briefing, the figure had jumped to 61 cases. Earlier today, the Department of Health put the figure at 62.

Among the interventions announced by the President are travel bans from high-risk countries and prohibited gatherings of more than a 100 people. 

The Minister said it is important for South Africans to understand that the President’s declaration is empowered by the limitation clause in terms of section 36 of the Constitution. 

“The President’s announcement affects the rights of South Africans. It affects the limitation of rights, which is contained in section 36 of the Constitution. These are anchored with the health regulations and the Disaster Management Act,” said Lamola. 

Correctional facilities 

On Sunday, the President also announced that visits to all correctional centres are suspended for 30 days with immediate effect. 

In line with this, Lamola expanded on measures such as the sanitisation of correctional facilities, which his department is undertaking to mitigate against the spread of the virus. 

“All correctional facilities will be sanitised. The process is underway.  

“We are in engagement with the judiciary and the legal fraternity to ensure that courts are still able to operate, and inmates are still be able to attend court proceedings,” he said. –