Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

DA, Dlamini-Zuma to square off in court over Cape beach closures

By Siviwe Feketha Time of article published Dec 18, 2020

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Johannesburg - The DA and the national government are set to battle it out in court over the latest Covid-19 regulations which include restrictions and closure of beaches during the summer season.

This comes after the official opposition lodged an urgent application with the Western Cape High Court yesterday, wherein it sought to have the new regulations declared unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid insofar as they applied to the province.

This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) declared the Garden Route region in the DA-led Western Cape as one of the country’s three hot spot areas and where stricter measures were imposed to contain the spread of the virus.

The new regulations also include the reduction of the number of hours in which people would have access to the country’s beaches.

The party has pointed out that its court application was specifically aimed at insulating the Western Cape from the regulations, which it governed at provincial level and in most municipalities.

“In so doing the DA does not in any way suggest that measures adopted in other provinces are constitutional. Indeed, those measures may well be unconstitutional and unlawful,” Steenhuisen said.

In his founding affidavit, DA leader John Steenhuisen said the blanket closure of beaches in the Garden Route was arbitrary and illegal and that it violated the right of movement of residents in the tourist-attraction area, which has seen a significant spike in Covid-19 infections.

“The decision to close the beaches in the Garden Route appears to have been made without providing affected stakeholders, specifically individuals making up the tourism industry in the Garden Route, adequate notice or an opportunity to comment on the restrictions,” Steenhuisen said.

He argued that visits to beaches posed a lower risk of transmission than indoor activities which were permitted by the Covid-19 regulation, adding that the party was also opposed to the limitation of beach visits to be between 9am and 6pm in the province.

“The decision to restrict access to other beaches in the Western Cape will result in more people visiting these spaces at the same time and in larger crowds which is counterproductive and irrational. The blanket closure and beach hours restrictions interfere with local government’s authority over and the right to administer beaches,” Steenhuisen said.

The DA has argued that regulations would be “the final nail in the coffin” for coastal economies as they had already endured hardship under strict lockdown since March.

But the national government has highlighted that the coastal area was among the biggest sites for the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected around 874 000 people and claimed almost 24 000 lives to date in SA.

Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa and Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had failed to give the party reasons why the national government had not imposed a differentiated approach in the garden Route as it did in KwaZulu-Natal, where the beaches will only be closed on the traditionally busiest days during festive.

“In the delicate fight to save both lives and livelihoods, any job-killing Covid-19 regulation which has no rational basis in medical and scientific practice cannot be imposed. Doing so will only create a far more dangerous pandemic of widespread poverty and job losses, which we are already witnessing,” he said.

Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesperson Lungi Mtshali had not responded to questions by the time of publication.

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