The legality of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that public schools will close for four weeks is due to come under the legal spotlight.
Yesterday, the DA filed papers in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, in which it is asking for an urgent order declaring the announcement unlawful and unconstitutional.
The party said the president’s announcement had not yet been published in the Government Gazette.
The DA is, therefore, of the view that the announcement has no legal effect and that schools should technically not have closed as there is no legal requirement for them to do so.
DA spokesperson for higher education Belinda Bozzoli said in an affidavit that South Africa was a constitutional democracy and not an authoritarian state.
“The executive is therefore not permitted to legislate by decree without properly exercising statutory powers through publication in the gazette – as this ultimately undermines the rule of law.”
Bozzoli added that should the court take a view that the president’s announcement reflects a decision by either Cabinet or himself to close schools and this decision was binding, the DA would ask that this decision be set aside. According to Bozzoli, neither the president nor Cabinet have the legal powers to close schools.
“The Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga cannot claim that the decision to close schools was hers either because the press release in which she welcomed the announcement expressly described the decision as one by Cabinet.”
The DA maintains that the closure of schools was a rash and politically motivated decision. It was not a decision taken in the best interest of the academic progress of learners.
The party says the closure of schools is by far the least effective strategy to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and will have devastating consequences for years to come.
In her affidavit, Bozzoli said the closure would diminish the amount of effective education learners would receive this year.
“This would affect poor learners the most severely, as they have the least access to remedial catch-up measures and computers and airtime for e-learning. The announcement was also preceded by insufficient consultation and it was vague and confusing.”