More than 160 000 people had already sent submissions on controversial draft health regulations through the Dear South Africa website by last night, said Rob Hutchinson, managing director of the public participation platform during a Zoom meeting.
He told the meeting last night that the system, which at the time he spoke registered about 98 000 comments received so far, was battling to cope with the flood of submissions. He urged people to keep on sending their comments and reassured them that no submissions will be lost and that they are addressing the technical challenge.
The online meeting, billed as a legislative indaba for the Body of Christ also heard that other platforms which have been created in response to the draconian health regulations which the government wants to introduce to replace the 2-year-old state of disaster, are also being technically challenged as a result of citizens responding to calls to speak up for their freedom and the freedom of future generations.
Objections to the draft regulations are detailed on the Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) website. “They require no Parliamentary oversight, do not require the Minister to give reasons for any decisions, and effectively grant Government the same extraordinary executive powers they have had under the State of National Disaster – INDEFINITELY,” says FOR SA.
During last night’s indaba which was chaired by attorney and Christian marketplace leader Dr Pearl Kupe, 600 000 was mentioned as a minimum target for the total of public submissions to be achieved by the closing date for comment on April 15. Several speakers suggested that a total of more than a million submissions is achievable and would provide a strong foundation for a legal challenge, should government attempt to push the regulations through.
What is certain is that a new record in public participation is going to be set, well before the April 15 cut-off date. The current record stands at around 200 000 submissions and was achieved in June last year when SA pushed back against the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Discrimination Amendment Bill — commonly known as the PEPUDA Amendment Bill.
The 160 000 already submitted on one platform by last night plus through other platforms which are being vigorously promoted by their authors suggests that last year’s record may already have been surpassed.
In reply to a question about how the many people in rural areas without access to internet could have a say on the regulation, Michael Swain, executive director of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) who was one of four panellists at the webinar, said that one of the associations that FOR SA represents which has a massive indigenous church constituency is taking physical submission forms to people in villages and will deliver completed forms to the Department of Health.
The other panellists in last night’s meeting were Hutchinson, Catherine Raphaely founder of the Red List and ACDP president Rev Kenneth Meshoe. 500 people — Zoom’s maximum limit for the meeting — attended the indaba.
Swain said that the overreaching health regulations are being pushed by government at a time when the pandemic is effectively over and the state already has the Disaster Management Act in place which enables it to implement a state of disaster if necessary.
He said a claim that many people have seen on social media that repetitive messages will be counted as one message is false. Every single submission counts, he said.
Hutchinson concurred that every comment counts. If there are a million submissions the law requires government to acknowledge and consider every comment and to provide proof that it has done so, he said.
He said people are entitled to make more than one comment. He encouraged citizens to study the facts about the regulations which are available online and to make thoughtful and constructive comments in their own words. You can read more about the draft regulations and make your submission at the following link: https://dearsouthafrica.co.za/health-act-amendment/
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