Garden Route beaches will stay closed as DA loses court bid

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Deserted... except for fishermen. That's how pristine and beautiful Garden Route beaches look from now on.
Deserted... except for fishermen. That's how pristine and beautiful Garden Route beaches look from now on.
Elle Photography
  • The DA's challenge to have the closure of the Garden Route's beaches declared unconstitutional has failed.
  • However, the hours that beaches in the rest of the province can be visited has been extended.
  • DA leader John Steenhuisen said while respecting the judgment, it is a "devastating blow" to the Garden Route's economy.

The DA's challenge to the national government's decision to close the beaches in the Garden Route District for the entirety of the festive season failed in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

The DA asked the court to declare the regulations closing the Garden Route's beaches, and limiting the time the public can access beaches in the rest of the Western Cape, as unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid.

Arguments were heard on Monday, and the court on Tuesday handed down an ex tempore judgment.

"While we are disappointed by the ruling in favour of beach closures, we welcome the amended hours of beach operation which we have managed to get changed from 09:00 to 18:00, to 06:00 to 19:00," said DA leader John Steenhuisen in a statement.

He also welcomed that the court awarded 50% of the party's costs.

This ruling came while similar applications were heard in the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Steenhuisen said the DA is still "deeply concerned that the blanket closure of the Garden Route's beaches over the festive season will have far-reaching and devastating consequences for local economies, and for the livelihoods which depend on seasonal tourism during this time".

"While we respect the judgment, we understand that this ruling remains a devastating blow to the thousands of small businesses along the Garden Route, which are now at serious risk of collapse. This problem will not go away once South Africa emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, and we cannot ignore the risk to livelihoods which many lockdown restrictions present."

He said the DA will continue to act in both the "interests of the lives and livelihoods of South Africans".

"South Africa's coronavirus response must always take into account the delicate balance between lives and livelihoods. Our country cannot endure any regulations which harm the economy and cut citizens off from their means to make an honest living in a safe and secure manner."

He said regulations imposed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus must be within reason and backed up by scientific and medical advice.

"Anything less is a reckless assault on the livelihoods of millions of South Africans in an economy which is already on its knees.

"The DA will continue to ensure that this balance is preserved and protected, and that national government does not take flagrant liberty to dominate and command the lives of free individuals in a democratic society," Steenhuisen said.

AfriForum and the Great Brak River Business Forum approached the High Court in Pretoria with a similar application to have the beach-related regulations declared unlawful and unconstitutional.

In her answering affidavit, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma argues that the beach closures are temporary and justified in the context of the second wave of Covid-19 infections, which is exacerbated by the fact that it is happening during the festive season.

Dlamini-Zuma maintained that rights of dignity and freedom of expression were not impacted by the impugned regulations and, because the beach closures and limitations are temporary, they do not infringe on freedom of movement.

Regarding the right to freedom of trade, Dlamini-Zuma said the regulations do not infringe on the right to choose any particular profession.

In terms of scientific participation in the decision to close beaches, Dlamini-Zuma said the Medical Advisory Council was approached for their input and had identified different options.

- Additional reporting by Alex Mitchley

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