South African schools to stay open after High Court dismisses urgent application

 ·10 Jun 2020

The North Gauteng High Court has dismissed an urgent application to close South Africa’s schools over health and safety conferences around the coronavirus.

The ruling comes after the Educators’ Union of South Africa (EUSA) made an application to the courts based on concerns that the government has acted recklessly in reopening the country’s schools which could lead to the death of students and educators.

“There is no way that a department that has deliberately overlooked the fact that schools do not have toilets and water after 26 years of democracy can have any good intentions for us,” the union said in a statement on Monday.

“Once again they are overlooking the fact that many schools in townships and rural areas will not be opening due to structural shortages which they had the obligation, change and money to fix.

“The need for tenders and self-enrichment has become their only priority.”

However, the court found that EUSA’s application contained material flaws which led to the dismissal of the case.

Trade Union Solidarity welcomed the judgement noting that it was not practical to close all of the country’s schools.

“The approach to closing all schools if an equal level of readiness is not achieved at all schools, is unsustainable and unconstitutional. Governing bodies are the appropriate bodies tasked to take decisions in the best interests of the school and its learners,” said Solidarity’s Melanie Buys.

“Closing schools also has a huge negative impact on learners, teachers and the community. It is not only the right to education that is violated but it also has substantial practical consequences such as not being able to complete the school programme and the reality of retrenchments of those in governing body posts,” Buys said.

Cigarette ban

The ban on the sale of cigarettes is expected is also being heard by a full bench of the Pretoria High court this week.

The case is being brought against government by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) which is arguing that the banning of the sale of cigarettes is irrational.

While government is arguing that smoking could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases and even death, Fita said that this is not an issue that is limited to cigarettes.

“One of the first issues that we find difficult with the government’s stance is the arbitrary nature in which these regulations are implemented,” said Fita chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni.

“If we go into the depths of the legal argument it is quite baffling as they state in their own papers, and even in some of the medical reports that they rely on, that there is no link between smoking and Covid-19.

“We accept that there is harm that is suffered by one’s lungs especially if they are a long-term smoker, but that cannot be undone by a cessation of six weeks.”

Read: What to expect from South Africa’s cigarette sale court battle happening this week

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