garden route beaches closed for the festive season
Garden Route beaches are closed for the festive season. Photo: Pixabay

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has until 17h00 on Wednesday (16 Dec) to justify why the national government has decided to close beaches in the Garden Route District in the Western Cape for the entire festive season. If he fails to do so, the DA says it will approach the courts for urgent relief.

The President announced the beach closure, along with the closure of all beaches in the Eastern Cape from 16 Dec to 3 Jan, in an address to the nation yesterday evening. The drastic measures are intended to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

However the DA argues that with infection rates on the Garden Route being similar to those in KwaZulu-Natal, the Garden Route should be afforded the same nuanced approach as KZN where beaches only have to close on a few traditionally popular days. Ideally the Garden Route beaches should not close at all, said Steenhuisen.

“Premier Alan Winde has told National Government repeatedly that beach-going in the Western Cape does not present a significant threat of Covid-19 infection,” said Steenhuisen in a statement today.

He insists: “All Western Cape beaches should be open for the entirety of the festive season, as requested by the provincial government.”

Steenhuisen has sent a letter to the President and COGTA Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma asking  them to justify the grounds on which they made this decision.

The DA Leader says this regulation is not in line with scientific advice available from medical experts, and is impossible to enforce.

“Such a regulation will also be the final nail in the coffin for the Garden Route’s coastal economies which are nearing total collapse.”

He said: “There is no justifiable reason for beach closures anywhere in the Western Cape, and National Government’s decision to close the Garden Route’s beaches over the festive season is thus dangerously irrational.’

With Western Cape residents relying on the DA to “protect and uphold their rights, to live in a just and equal society, and to pursue a life of freedom and dignity”, the DA promises it will take this fight to the courts.

New COVID-19 regulations that limit access to beaches are unconstitutional

Meanwhile AfriForum has already introduced a motion in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to have the COVID-19 Regulations regarding beach closures declared unconstitutional.

According to AfriForum the limiting of access to beaches, that are public property, amounts to the restriction of a basic human right. In terms of the Constitution a basic human right such as freedom of movement can only be restricted if it is firstly justifiable, and secondly if it is supported by generally acceptable legislation. The government can therefore not have different regulations for different beaches considering that it is not a legal principle with general acceptability. (AfriForum says it agrees that mass gatherings on beaches must be prohibited seeing that no social distancing is maintained during these gatherings.)

“It is unconstitutional and discriminatory to close certain beaches given the enormous economic impact that it will have on especially coastal towns, that have been suffering the whole year due to the lockdown regulations. The December holiday is an opportunity to recover their economies to an extent and the closing of the beaches will lead to immense, irreparable damage for the businesspeople of these towns,” says Monique Taute, AfriForum’s Head of Campaigns.

“To visit the beach is a form of recreation that takes place outdoors and people are exposed to the sun that contributes to a healthier immune system. The alternative is that people will turn to places like shopping centres and restaurants that hold a much higher risk of spreading the virus,” Taute concluded.