Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema (C) waves to his supporters outside the Randburg Magistrate Court, near Johannesburg, on October 13, 2020. (Photo: Phill MAGAKOE / AFP)

EFF party leader did not file lawsuit to shut South Africa’s schools amid Covid-19 surge

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 A post shared hundreds of times on Facebook in South Africa claims that schools in the country will be closed after politician Julius Malema won a court case forcing the government to shutter classrooms due to a surge in Covid-19 infections. But this is false: the South African education department refuted the claim that schools have been ordered shut, and a spokeswoman for Malema’s party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), said that neither he nor his party had filed any such lawsuit. 

The post was published here on Facebook on June 13, 2021, and has since been shared over 3,800 times. It reads: “julius malema won the case and it’s confirmed the schools are closing (sic).”

Screenshot of the false post, taken on June 15, 2021

On June 10, 2021, South Africa officially entered its third wave of Covid-19 infections after recording 9,149 new cases in a 24-hour period, according to figures released by the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). 

That same day, Malema gave a press conference in which he called for the government to close schools with immediate effect, as reported by local media.

However, the claim that schools will be shut following a court order is false.

No court case

Elijah Mhlanga, a spokesman of the Department of Basic Education, told AFP Fact Check that “the Department of Basic Education has not been ordered by a court of law to close down schools due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the country.”

Mhlanga added that there had been no such court case filed against the government.

Meanwhile, Sixolise Gcilishe, a spokeswoman for the EFF party, also told AFP Fact Check no case was filed. 

“Neither Malema nor the EFF has filed a case wanting the government to close schools,’ she said. “What our party leader did is that he asked the government to shut schools for the safety of our children.”

While the school system remains open, local media has reported that some individual schools have shut their doors due to high rates of Covid-19 infections. 

On June 15, 2021, South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa officially moved the country to Covid-19 Alert Level 3, announcing more restrictions on movement, gatherings, and alcohol sales after the country recorded an average of 7,500 new daily infections over seven consecutive days. 

As of June 16, 2021, South Africa had recorded more than 1.7 million Covid-19 cases and 57,879 deaths -- the highest numbers on the continent.