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Lockdown: Impossible to consult with every religious leader over gatherings ban, court hears

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Lockdown: Impossible to consult with every religious leader over gatherings ban, court hears

Legal Scales

24th November 2021

By: News24Wire

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The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has heard during the challenge of the previous ban on faith-based gatherings that it would have been impossible for every single religious leader or organisation to be consulted.

Arguing on behalf of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is the respondent in the matter, advocate Rusty Mogagabe SC said despite their best efforts, it would have been impossible for all religious leaders to be consulted.

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"In regards to the urgency of the situation and the danger presented by the pandemic, it would be putting an onerous burden, if not an unreasonable one on the minister to consult with each and every religious organisation similarly to consult with each and every political party or traditional council in the country," said Mogagabe.

The court was currently hearing a virtual special motion application challenging the December 2020 and January 2021 lockdown regulations, which, among other things, placed a ban on faith-based gatherings.

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This comes after one of the many applicants, the South African National Christian Forum (SANCF), had filed urgent papers in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to challenge the lockdown regulations that resulted in churches being closed.

The case, however, was removed from the urgent court roll in February following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa of the lifting of the ban, with places of worship permitted to resume their services with a maximum amount of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, News24 reported.

Those regulations are no longer in place.

However, parties had argued that the court action was still justifiable.

Dealing with the issue of consultation, Mogagabe submitted that consultation was carried out as Dlamini-Zuma accompanied Ramaphosa and presented the proposed January regulations at a meeting at which the president consulted with religious leaders on the necessary steps to combat the virus.

He further argued that "a case is made out as if the faith-based organisations are being targeted at the expense of other entities or activities", but other people were are also affected by the prohibitions.

"If it is so, then the process of consultation would be done at the expense of saving lives and livelihoods, the government has to act speedily, swiftly and urgently in responding to the virus," Mogagabe argued.

The matter continues.

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