Legal battles loom as political parties, NGOs take government to court

Legal battles loom as political parties, NGOs take government to court

- Government is facing numerous legal battles as opposition parties, teacher unions and civil rights groups take the state to court

- The Department of Education in particular is under fire for its decision to reopen schools amid the risk of children contracting and spreading the coronavirus

- The battle over the sale of tobacco is another contentious issue that is drawing criticism and sparking legal action

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While the South African government continues to battle Covid-19-related challenges on multiple fronts, it is soon to have more on its plate. The government is facing several court challenges as opposition parties, unions and civil rights groups approach the courts to challenge the different lockdown regulations issued by the government.

The Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) is the latest organisation to take government to court in a long list of complainants. The union says it is going to launch an urgent application against the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and seeks an interdict to stop the reopening of schools for Grade 7 and 12 learners on 1 June.

EUSA spokesperson Kabelo Mahlobogwane went as far as comparing the reopening of schools to a genocide. He said:

"Sending learners to school during winter, when infections will be increasing, is similar to committing a genocide."

One user on Twitter questioned whether parents would have to sign indemnity forms with the schools.

The union, which represents over 27 000 teachers in the country, also called for teachers not to report to work and parents not send to their children to school.

In another looming legal battle, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) is also heading to the Constitutional Court to to compel parliament and the executive to exercise their "constitutional powers". The foundation said:

"The HSF desires a restoration of power to parliament and the executive, functioning as each is required by the constitution."

The foundation says since lockdown began, the executive powers of parliament have been centralised to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC). Dr Dlamini-Zuma has become unpopular because of her unwavering stance on the sale of tobacco during this period.

"In the aftermath of the declaration of the state of disaster, HSF submits, parliament and the executive ought actively to have taken steps to reclaim their constitutionally assigned roles" said the foundation.

READ ALSO: Petition to lift ciggie ban garners more than 500k signatures

Aside from the schools issue, Cradle of Hope, a Gauteng based non-profit organisation, is seeking help from the courts to declare provincial guidelines issued to regulate the distribution of aid unconstitutional and unlawful. This comes after they were stopped from giving poor people in Krugersdorp food - as they have done so for the past three years.

COH founder and CEO Melodie van Brakel said the legalities of the guidelines were questionable and go against the constitution which guarantees the right to food and water. Van Brakel expressed that it is not only COH that is affected by these regulations, but other NPOs that work with the distribution of food.

In another issue that has divided the smokers and non-smokers in the country, the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) said it is giving the government until Tuesday to provide a record of the material that led to its decisions to first lift the cigarette ban and then reverse it.

A Twitter user gave advise on how smokers can get the ban lifted

The association argues that the government has failed to provide scientific evidence linking the spread of Covid-19 and smoking tobacco.

FITA said:

"None of the ministers — most importantly, Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize — has demonstrated how the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes helps in preventing or reducing the spread of Covid-19."

The Democratic Alliance is also taking the government to court over what it calls “dictatorial madness” of the Disaster Management Act. DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said the military-enforced curfew, a restriction on e-commerce business and a limited three-hour window for exercise.

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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