One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane is heading to the Constitutional Court to challenge the government’s reopening of schools in the face of exponential growth in Covid-19 infections and deaths.
Maimane filed his urgent application for leave to appeal at the Concourt on Tuesday after his bid to halt the reopening of schools on June 1 and 8 and have the decision declared unlawful, irrational, unconstitutional and invalid failed in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria earlier this month.
In his affidavit, Maimane accuses President Cyril Ramaphosa, his government, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and her Basic Education counterpart Angie Motshekga of violating the rights of parents, children, workers and citizens in general by reopening schools.
Maimane has asked the Concourt to direct that, pending the final approval of the readiness and implementation plan, the alert level 4 regulations, which were effective until May 31, continue to operate and the government to “close and/or not to open any schools until all schools have been declared ready to open”.
Maimane, who is also bringing the application in his personal capacity as a citizen and a parent of school-going children, wants the application for leave to appeal to be heard on or before July 28 as more grades are scheduled to return to school on August 3.
“The cumulative and added effect of that on the current dire situation in schools and climbing infection and death rates will be devastating across the nation,” he warned.
Maimane said when he and his movement, a non-profit organisation, brought their high court application in May there were 25937 Covid-19 cases and 552 deaths, but when they filed their application for leave to appeal on Tuesday there were 298292 infections and 4346 deaths.
He told the Concourt that despite South Africa having the world’s 25th largest population it recently became among the top 10 countries with the most Covid-19 infections.
“It is indisputable that the infection and death rates grew exponentially in the relevant period and continue to do so,” reads Maimane’s affidavit.
Maimane continued: “If need be, the academic year could be lost as a better alternative to losing lives unnecessarily. Many people have lost an academic year before. It is not as irreversible as death.”
Maimane says the high court erred in labelling the connection between the reopening of schools and the release of their parents to their workplaces as misleading and a gross simplification.