Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, cannot give the reasons why the Covid 19 pandemic was declared a national disaster.
The “scientific grounds” why the sale of tobacco products was prohibited are also not available, nor are the reasons why the sale of beverages is allowed during the level 3 restriction.
This is according to Dlamini-Zuma’s recent written answers to questions posed by opposition MPs and published this week.
Gizella Opperman, DA MP, asked the minister: “What are the reasons for the decision to declare Covid-19 a national disaster instead of a provincial or local disaster, and what data was used to address the disaster in terms of to classify the Disaster Management Act, Act 57 of 2002?
Dlamini-Zuma’s full reply reads: “The reasons for the decision to declare Covid-19 a national disaster will be presented to the Honorable Member as soon as the detailed information is available. Thank you.”
Zakhele Mbhele, another DA MP, wanted to know what the scientific grounds were that justified the ban on the sale of tobacco products.
He received exactly the same reaction as Opperman from the minister.
Parliamentary questions are seen as an essential mechanism for holding ministers accountable. The DA has also complained in the past that Dlamini-Zuma did not respond to questions, and used the unavailability of the information requested as an excuse.
Dlamini-Zuma, who plays a key role in the government’s response to the Covid 19 pandemic, has repeatedly used this excuse on questions posed to her since Thursday. In some cases, she referred the person who asked the question to another department.
In one case, Mlindi Nhlanhla, DA MP in the National Council of Provinces, could at least get more than the standard response from the minister. Nhlanhla asked if ministers were allowed to change any restriction regulations if it affected their department.
In her response, Dlamini-Zuma writes: “The Disaster Management Act empowers the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, after consulting the Cabinet, to issue regulations or issue directions or authorize the issuing of directions. The position or relevant details will be submitted to the Honorable Member as soon as it is available. “