Beaches in Garden Route, Eastern Cape to stay shut as High Court dismisses bids challenging govt's decision

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  • The Gauteng High Court has ruled that beaches in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route will remain closed. 
  • Judge Hans Fabricius delivered his ruling on Wednesday morning. 
  • He said government's decision was not irrational or unlawful. 

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has dismissed three separate applications relating to the government's decision to close beaches in certain Covid-19 hotspot areas over the festive season. 

The applicants wanted certain beaches in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route to be reopened.

However, delivering his judgment on Wednesday morning, Judge Hans Fabricius said the government's decision was not irrational or unlawful.

He also said: "Many 'facts' put before me were largely of a hearsay nature and that's inadmissible. I appreciate that applicants had little opportunity to obtain expert advice but even that does not allow me to admit otherwise inadmissible hearsay evidence and to base my judgment thereon.

"On the other hand, the government was guided by expert medical advice... there is 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."

The applicants were the Great Brak Business Forum and others, the Kouga Local Municipality and the Buffelsbaai Homeowners Association and others.  

It was argued in court papers that 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.

Last Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the closure of certain beaches and public parks over the festive season to curb the spread of Covid-19.

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

In a statement issued shortly after the judgment was delivered, lobby group AfriForum, said although the application did not succeed, it was important to "highlight the disastrous effects the closure of beaches will have on businesses".

AfriForum's legal representative Daniël Eloff, said: "It is also important to take note that the court's judgment does not excuse the government's action but adjudged that the government's decision to close beaches was indeed valid."

AfriForum's head of campaigns Monique Taute said although the organisation was disappointed with the outcome, it encouraged the public to "still visit their favourite holiday destinations and to support the local businesses to lighten the financial burden in these coastal towns".

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

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

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