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Stopping unvaccinated people from entering court is unlawful

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DURBAN – The office of the Chief Justice confirmed that the directive from Durban High Court Judge Mahendra Chetty not to allow unvaccinated people from accessing his courtroom during the Durban High Court corruption trial of ANC provincial deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu and 15 others is not lawful.

It was used to control the number of Mabuyakhulu’s supporters attending the matter as there was not enough space to accommodate everyone.

South African Judiciary spokesperson Nathi Mncube said that Judge President Achmat Jappie confirmed that the directive was issued by Judge Chetty after a consultation with him.

“The objective of the directive is to minimise the spread of the viruses by ensuring that all those who attend the case are protected from contracting the virus. It is just a measure that Judge Chetty deemed appropriate considering that the case attracted wide interest from the media and members of the public.

“Over and above that, the KZN High Court could not find a courtroom big enough to accommodate the whole contingent of the accused and their legal representatives. Of course, the directive is not law, it is applicable to this one particular case,” Mncube said.

He added that it is a directive issued for this matter only and has to be approved by the Head of Court of that Division.

Asked whether this would not set a precedent for other judges to follow suit, Mncube said that it was unlikely that all judges would follow this directive.

“But those who are aggrieved should write to Judge President Jappie to raise concerns about the directive and its impact. I don’t think anyone was really stopped from accessing the court as such as a result of the directive.”

Mabuyakhulu and 15 others are facing charges of fraud and money laundering over monies paid by the KwaZulu-Natal government relating to the North Sea Jazz Festival.

Everyone attending the trial either needed to produce a vaccination card or proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken in the last seven days.

This applied to lawyers, the media, court staff, and those on trial.