Beach closures: High Court to deliver judgment on Wednesday

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  • The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has heard arguments in relation to government's decision to close beaches in certain hotspots area over the festive season.
  • The court heard three separate applications on Tuesday.
  • Judge Hans Fabricius is expected to deliver his judgment on Wednesday.  

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria will on Wednesday deliver its judgment in the matter relating to government's decision to close beaches in certain hotspot areas over the festive season. 

On Tuesday, High Court Judge Hans Fabricius heard three separate applications asking that certain beaches in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route be opened.   

The applicants wanted the ban on the closure of breaches overturned. 

The applicants were the Great Brak Business Forum, the Kouga local municipality and Buffelsbaai Homeowners Association.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last Monday the closure of certain beaches and public parks over the festive season due to Covid-19.

READ | Beach closures: Government lashed in court papers over 'draconian' regulations for Garden Route

The closure applied to all beaches in the Eastern Cape and Garden Route, while in KwaZulu-Natal, beaches would be closed on what's "traditionally the busiest days of the season".  

It was argued in court papers the regulations would have a devastating impact on the economy, limit economic and tourism activity and thus impact on freedom of trade, as enshrined in the Constitution.

Advocate AJ van Vuuren, representing the Great Brak Business Forum, argued that the Garden Route district solely relied on the tourism industry and this meant the attraction of the beaches. 

"If one takes away those factors, you're effectively... throttling the economy of the Garden Route," he said. 

'Severe economic consequences' 

He asked the court to declare the regulation unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid. 

Van Vuuren also added his clients were not ignorant to the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic was spreading across the country, but added that without rational cause, Garden Route had "been left to suffer the severe economic consequences".

ALSO READ | Beach closures: Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma face fight over shutting Garden Route beaches

He claimed certain hotspots within the Western Cape, excluding the Garden Route district, had been "excluded".

He said there was no explanation given to the court why certain beaches did not suffer the same fate.

He said within two days after Ramaphosa announced the closure of certain beaches, the second applicant in the matter, who owned a guesthouse, had allegedly suffered a 40% cancellation. He said the Garden Route should be treated the same way as the rest of the Western Cape. 

But advocate Ismail Jamie, for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, asked the court to dismiss the application with costs.

In court papers, the minister maintained the decision to close certain beaches in hotspot areas was rational and justifiable, and was therefore, legally compliant even if it limited other rights, News24 earlier reported.

Kouga local municipality

The court also heard an application by Kouga local municipality in the Eastern Cape, which covered Jeffreys Bay.  

Advocate Gerhard Celliers, argued on behalf of the municipality, saying when beaches closed, people would flock to malls and the streets.

He said beaches could be controlled with certain provisions put in place.

The judge said he was also a person who, from time to time visited the beach, adding that during this season, beaches tended to be crowded and that people sat in close proximity.

Jamie, for Dlamini-Zuma, said there was no reason why the municipality should be treated differently, while other areas in the province faced restrictions.

"The point is many people will be cautious and stay away from hotspots. We are all dealing with something that is unprecedented... we don't know all the facts."

Buffelsbaai Homeowners Association

The third application was from the Buffelsbaai Homeowners Association, arguing that the court should consider the "knock-on effect of what this will do to the employees". 

But Jamie again said this application should be dismissed.

He said the government's decisions were rational and with precautions.  

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