Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has proposed changes to the existing National Health Act’s regulations on notifiable diseases. These amendments, if approved by cabinet, will confer the minister the power to impose restrictions on the public for any disease deemed a major public threat.

Speaking during a meeting of the portfolio committee of health on Tuesday evening [October 13], Mkhize laid out plans for the way forward once the country exits the national state of disaster. He proposed changes to the National Health Act that would grant him power similar to that which the Disaster Management Act gives the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister during a state of disaster.

Mkhize is pushing to amend regulations in the National Health Act to allow the Heath Minister the power to publish further regulations to address, prevent and combat the spread of a specific notifiable medical condition.

Another amendment is that the Health Minister may, to ensure that all necessary and reasonable measures are put in place to manage and control the spread of the notifiable medical condition, by regulation published in the Government 4 Gazette, impose necessary restrictions, relating to such notifiable medical condition.

These restrictions may include:

– the complete or partial closing of any public place including a place used for public receptions, tourist activities or events or public recreation, amusement or entertainment activities or events;

– prohibiting or regulating the holding of or attendance at any public meeting, public reception or any gathering within a district, province or nationally;

– prohibiting or regulating inter-district or provincial movement of persons;

– prohibiting or regulating the movement of persons at points of entry;

– regulating specified hours requiring persons to remain indoors;

– the complete or partial closing of any educational institution; and

– the regulating or restricting of attendance by any person of any institution or place referred to in subregulation

Mkhize’s proposal has received backlash from the Democratic Alliance (DA). Siviwe Gwarube MP, DA Shadow Minister of Health called the amendments “deeply concerning“.

“It gives an impression of a government desperate to retain power over its citizens even outside of a legitimate State of Disaster by giving powers to the Minister which will allow him and the Executive to impose far reaching restrictions,” said Gwarube.

“They give the Minister of Health or more broadly, the Executive, unlimited powers to impose restrictions that will impede civil liberties. More importantly, these powers conferred to the Minister via the backdoor of the regulations make no provision for Parliamentary oversight and allow the Executive to impose restrictions without any checks and balances.”

Read the amendments here: Health-Amendment

Picture: Twitter / Zweli Mkhize

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