One South Africa leader Mmusi Maimane believes it is better to lose the school academic year than to lose lives.
Maimane, together with his One South Africa movement, is appealing against a judgment of the full bench of the North Gauteng High Court which dismissed his application to bar schools from reopening.
He is approaching the Constitutional Court for the second time on this matter after his earlier application for direct access was dismissed last month.
Maimane has again filed an urgent direct appeal with the Constitutional Court arguing urgency due to a larger reopening of schools next month. He also wants to use new evidence, based on the latest Covid-19 statistics, among other things, to make his case.
“The applicants only requested that schools should remain closed until the safety of children, teachers and others could be demonstrably safeguarded.
“If needs 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,” said Maimane.
In his appeal, Maimane and his organisation have cited President Cyril Ramaphosa, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and basic education minister Angie Motshekga. He has argued that the matter is urgent and he wants direct access to the Constitutional Court because “given the nature and extent of the issues dealt with”, the matter was destined for the apex court and it would cause further delays and money to first refer the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
“It is, with respect, no exaggeration to rank this as arguably the most urgent application which has ever served before our courts. The respondents themselves put the SA population at 57.7 million.
“This application affects state conduct and decisions which affect lives, dignity, health and education. It is also about the important values of accountability and the rule of law. More particularly, the court has an extra duty to safeguard the lives and welfare of children in their own right and not as appendages of their adult parents and/or teachers,” said Maimane.
Maimane said the system of “alert levels”, employed by the government since May this year, was informed by the government’s risk-adjusted strategy which dictated that easing of restrictions would be determined according to risk factors. Those factors, he said, included the rate at which the proportion of the population testing increased, the rate of increase in positive tests, the increase in hospital beds at both private and public hospitals, and “the rate at which the proportion of hospital beds being utilised for Covid-19 is increasing”.
But Maimane said the government had failed to prove that even a single one of the criteria have been met.
“To illustrate this point, I draw from the statistics contained in the pleadings, as updated by the latest statistics which form part of the new evidence referred to below.
“Suffice to state that so exponential has been the growth that when this application was initially brought before this honourable court for direct access at the end of May 2020, the confirmed infected cases were 25,937 and cumulative deaths were 552. Today, the corresponding figures are 298,292 infections and 4,346 deaths,” said Maimane.
Maimane further argued that the high court had erred in rejecting “the symbiotic relationship between the decision to ‘reopen the economy’ and the simultaneous reopening of schools, despite the objective evidence of the respondents’ utterances to the contrary”.
“It erred in labelling as a ‘gross simplification’ and even ‘misleading’ the connection between the reopening of schools and the release of parents to the workplace when this was based on the admitted utterances of the respondents, which are even quoted elsewhere in the judgment and which corroborate the existence of the connection relied upon by the applicants,” said Maimane.