The Eastern Cape government has welcomed a decision by the Pretoria High Court to dismiss an application by the DA-run Kouga Local Municipality to open beaches in the province.
This comes after the municipality took the provincial government’s decision to close off beaches to court to challenge its rationality.
Eastern Cape government spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha said the joint application by the Kouga Local Municipality, Great Brak River Business Forum and businessperson Louis Cook was nothing but a political prank.
“The decision of the court affirms not only the constitutionality of our decision as government to close our beaches in order to protect our people from contracting the virus, but also sends a strong message to any person who wants to undermine this decision.”
“Now that this matter is behind us, we will work together with all institutions of government, including Kouga municipality, and our social partners to keep our beaches closed so that we can continue protecting the people of our province.”
“We all have a lot of work to do in this regard and there is no time to waste on political pranks because they do not [serve] the interests of our people. Let us all protect the lives of our people and not try to gamble with them,” said Sicwetsha.
He warned members of the public who are planning to gather next to the rivers, dams and streams in the province to refrain from doing so because such gatherings are prohibited.
“Our law enforcement agencies will be on the lookout for those who will be gathering next to rivers, dams and streams,” he said.
Kouga Local Municipality falls under the Sarah Baartman District Municipality and has a 70km coastline that includes Jeffreys Bay, St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis and Oyster Bay, as well as the inland towns of Humansdorp, Patensie, Hankey, Loerie and Thornhill.
The judgment has reaffirmed the Eastern Cape government’s decision to close all its beaches during the festive season to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
The province has been the epicentre of the second wave of infections, with the Nelson Mandela Bay metro and Sarah Baartman being declared Covid-19 hotspots.
“…Another result would be, were the final interdict to be granted, and knowing human nature all too well, that the public would flock to these areas en masse and thereby most likely increase the spread of the new wave of infections substantially,” reads the judgment in part.
Judge Hans Fabricius said the provincial government was guided by expert medical advice and opinions and that there was no doubt that the state has a constitutional obligation to protect the health of its citizens or inhabitants.
“The pandemic must be halted, or its spread at least limited by all lawful and rational means. That is its role and it is only in exceptional circumstances that a court will not show deference to decisions made based on objective facts, that is the sudden spike in infections as a result of the virus probably having mutated here and elsewhere in Europe and based on views of experts of international renown.”
“Hospitals are already overwhelmed, elective surgery has been cancelled and even younger people have now been found to be spreaders of the virus. The government and its experts do not have all the answers; in fact, there is very little certainty about a number of facts, such as why the new wave has occurred so suddenly and why the new strain is more infectious. Experts all over the world are baffled by a number of aspects and it would be unwise in the extreme to ignore the objective facts on the ground,” said Fabricius
He said the applicants’ affidavits contained no expert opinion contradicting the medical evidence presented by government supporting the closure of beaches.
“The premier of the Eastern Cape [Oscar Mabuyane] wrote to the first respondent [Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma] recommending the closure of Eastern Cape beaches, after he had consulted with all municipal mayors. Kouga supported this decision, although this is now denied,” said Fabricius.
The judge also dismissed applications which sought to have the beaches along the Garden Route opened. He ruled that government was justified to take the decision that it did under the circumstances.
“I am satisfied that any infringement of rights is justifiable in terms of section 36 of the Constitution, and that the relevant decision is not irrational or unlawful,” said Fabricius.