EFF leader Julius Malema has threatened that his party will close schools if the government proceeds with its plan to reopen them.
At a media briefing on Thursday (10 June), Malema gave Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga seven days to close schools, citing rising COVID-19 infections across the country.
‘With immediate effect’
“Schools must close and they must close with immediate effect because our children are going to die. We give the Minister seven days to close schools. Failure to do so, we’ll have to close schools ourselves,” Malema vowed.
Primary schools are set to resume normal in-person learning in the next few days. However, a third wave has been declared in several provinces, including Gauteng and Western Cape.
On Wednesday, South Africa recorded nearly 9,000 new COVID-19 cases at a positivity rate of 16.5 percent, the highest in several months. There was also an increase of 1,150 hospital admissions in 24 hours, with the highest number (587) being in Gauteng.
“The increase number of tests and cases, and increased positivity are all evidence of the predicted third surge in COVID-19 cases, and not artefacts of data loading or increased laboratory turnaround times,” the Department of Health said in its daily briefing.
Some unions, including the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), have called on the government to prioritise vaccination of teachers and other staff members before contact classes resume.
Motshekga has previously indicated that she supports vaccination of teachers as soon as possible, but she could not confirm when this would happen.
Motshekga ‘missing in action’
Malema however accused Motshekga of “missing in action” and failing to communicate a detailed plan of how learners will be protected during a third wave of COVID-19.
“Our children are testing positive. Where is the Minister of Education? We must be told where is the Minister of Education,” he charged.
Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga however told News24 that the government will not “entertain” the EFF’s threats.
He stated, “Political parties have a right to express themselves on whatever matter they wish. We will not respond to every statement they make. It is unhelpful.”