Prof Shabir Madhi calls for ban on matric rage parties

15 November 2020 - 00:00
By prega govender AND Prega Govender
Plett Rage kicks off with an event at VIP in Plettenberg Bay. Thousands of pupils flock to the town at the end of the matric exams.
Image: Shelley Christians Plett Rage kicks off with an event at VIP in Plettenberg Bay. Thousands of pupils flock to the town at the end of the matric exams.

A leading medical expert has called for the banning of this season’s matric rage parties, saying he would consider it “criminal and utterly irresponsible” if the government allowed them to continue.

Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at Wits University, said in the context of Covid-19 the organisers should be held accountable for the resurgence of infections he predicted within three to four weeks of the events.

Madhi’s comments come in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s coronavirus update this week, in which he again warned against large gatherings.

Annually, tens of thousands of matric revellers descend on Ballito and Umhlanga in Durban, Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape and Plettenberg Bay in the southern Cape to celebrate the end of their schooling.

Since last year, grade 12s have also been attending the Joburg Rage Festival, with about 5,000 youngsters turning out for the two-day event.

This year organisers have moved the Plett festival to January 29 because half of the matrics attend government schools and will be finishing their exams on December 15 — in peak holiday season.

The majority of pupils attending the Ballito and Umhlanga festivals are from private schools, which finish exams on November 27. That festival will run from then until December 5. The Joburg festival is on December 12 and 13, and the Jeffreys Bay festival is from December 15 to 22.

Another health professional from Wits recently wrote to professor Salim Abdool Karim, the chair of health minister Zweli Mkhize’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, asking the committee to consider banning matric parties.

In his e-mail, the health professional and parent of a matric pupil, who did not want to be named to protect his child, expressed concern that the use of alcohol will cause uninhibited behaviour.

“It is unlikely they will use masks or sanitise their hands in the state they will be in.”

In response, Karim said he “will share his concerns” with a technical working group producing an advisory on the potential Covid risks during the December vacation period.

Rage Festival Group spokesperson Marina Oreb said that “Covid-19 has certainly limited the number of interested attendees … we are expecting about 60% to 70% of the usual turnout.”

She said very few parents have “directly expressed concerns” to the organisers about the events being super-spreaders.

She said that the wearing of masks will be mandatory at all venues and on the shuttles.

In most cases only 30% of a venue’s capacity will be used and only venues with high airflow have been chosen, she said.