Maimane's bid to keep schools closed to be heard in Gauteng High Court this week
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Pretoria - A full bench of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, led by Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, will on Thursday and Friday hear the legal bid by Mmusi Maimane and his organisation - One SA Movement - to keep all schools closed.
The applicants will, among others, ask that the decision by the government to move nationally from level 4 to level 3 of the lockdown regulations, be overturned.
In this regard Maimane argues that the government can only ease the lockdown regulations if there is a reduction in the number of Covid-19 daily infections.
He said this was done with little or no regard to the health and safety realities.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosasa Dlamini Zuma, is vehemently opposing this statement.
She said in an affidavit filed with the court that government never said downward shifts in the alert level system would happen in “direct proportion” to the improvement of the health statistics.
Government has constantly said that the easing of the lockdown is dependent on a number of factors, which include when the healthcare facilities are sufficiently prepared to deal with the rise in infections, the minister said.
Apart from arguing that the country is not ready for level 3 of the lockdown regulations, Maimane will also argue that the schools are not yet safe and ready to receive the millions of pupils across the country. He believes that if the schools are opened, it will lead to a sharp increase in the spread of the virus, which will result in the children falling ill. Maimane and his party are asking for an order suspending the reopening of schools for 60 days.
He wants government to provide proof during this time that it is ready and safe to reopen schools. He is also calling for an order that the government must present its plan to the court, or to a mutually agreed independent body, regarding its efforts and plans to safeguard schools against the virus.
Maimane said in his affidavit that it is vital that a supervisory plan be presented as the lives of millions of children as well as citizens - especially the poor and vulnerable - were in the hands of the government.
Maimane said he accepted that there are numerous plans and safeguards devised by the government to mitigate the risks of reopening of schools, but given the track record of the State, he doubted that these plans were adequate.
"The right to life must be protected proactively and before a catastrophe actually happens," he said.
Maimane said while government did not force parents to bring their children to school if they were unwilling to do so because of the risks, it will simply create unfair discrimination those parents whose children come from poorer communities and who might be more vulnerable to the risks due to historical reasons.
Director General of Basic Education, Hubert Mweli, who submitted an affidavit on behalf of the minister, meanwhile said “this is a serious and important matter which cannot be abused for propaganda or promoting one’s profile in the hope of a future career in politics.”
He said the court cannot assume the duties of the national executive by returning the country to level 4, especially where stakeholders such as businesses and employers are not being heard. Regarding the bid to close the schools, he said there is no doubt that the pupils need to be in schools, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Remote schooling is mostly impossible for the poor because the technology and human capacity are simply inadequate," he said.