Schools opening under Level 3: Clock ticking for govt to respond to Maimane's ConCourt challenge

Fumigation of a school in preparation for opening under Level 3 lockdown.
Fumigation of a school in preparation for opening under Level 3 lockdown.
Photo: GCIS
  • The government is left with hours to file an answering affidavit to Mmusi Maimane's Constitutional Court challenge to the reopening schools.
  • It asked for an extension until Monday, which failed, according to Maimane's lawyers.
  • Maimane wants the court to consider the various lockdown alert levels and their impact.

The government's attorney has until Friday to file a responding affidavit to the One South Africa (OSA) Movement's challenge to the reopening of schools.

In a letter dated 3 June, and directed at OSA's attorneys, State attorney AGF Mokgale - representing the government, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma -said the court application against the state sought far-reaching relief, which was complex and required a careful response from government. 

Speaking to News24, OSA attorney Eric Mabuza said Ramaphosa's and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's legal representation had both requested an extension until Monday.

Responses by government in the matter were due on Wednesday.

Mmusi Maimane
One SA Movement leader and former DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Jan Gerber, News24)

"We have agreed to an extension until today (Friday). It would have been unfair for them to ask for more time, as schools open on Monday," Mabuza said.

READ | Minister wants to save academic year above saving lives maimane tells ConCourt

In the founding affidavit to the Constitutional Court, former DA leader and founder of OSA Mmusi Maimane challenged the government's decision to reopen schools. In the affidavit, Maimane highlighted poor infrastructure, school overcrowding, staff shortages, sanitation and public transport as the motivation behind his application.

He also argued for a supervisory relief for Level 4 regulations to be restored.

"We seek to invoke the court's wide remedial powers by seeking structural or supervisory relief stipulating stringent conditions, without which the respondents may not implement any of the Level 3 measures and/or more specifically the reopening of schools for a period of 60 days, during which the constitutional breaches may be cured. In the supervening period and in order to avoid a vacuum, the Level 4 regulations must be restored," Maimane argued.

The papers argued that Motshekga did not display a thorough plan as to how schools would be made ready to open. He also argued that the minister did not inform the country how other pupils, who are learning under trees, tents and dilapidated buildings, would be catered for.

Maimane claimed the government was failing in its "constitutional" and "legal" duty to consult with organisations to ensure meaningful public participation.

He added that an unconsidered and rushed reopening of schools posed a risk to lives, especially when it was scheduled to coincide with the general reopening of the economy - from Level 4 to Level 3. 

He said that, if deaths from the Covid-19 virus were preventable, then it "is better to act now than after the fact".

"Even 1% of 10 million is 10 000 lives. The remotest risk will likely still have devastating consequences for human lives."

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