Lesufi loses court battle over Afrikaans school he labelled 'racist'

Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi has lost against Hoërskool Overvaal.
Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi has lost against Hoërskool Overvaal.
Image: Alaister Russell

Gauteng education MEC Panyza Lesufi has lost his battle to force Hoërskool Overvaal‚ an Afrikaans medium school‚ to take 55 English-speaking pupils.

In a unanimous judgement‚ the Constitutional Court dismissed his appeal and backed the decision made by the Pretoria High Court.

In January‚ Hoërskool Overvaal‚ went to court to block the education department’s attempts to force it to enrol the 55 pupils. The court found in the school’s favour.

On Thursday‚ the Constitutional Court said Lesufi had not given sufficient consideration to whether or not there was capacity at either the General Smuts and Phoenix high schools‚ which both offer English tuition and fall in the same feeder zone as Hoërskool Overvaal.

Lesufi had the accused the school of racism even‚ though it had both black and white pupils.

The school had said it could not afford to hire a handful of English teachers to teach subjects for the 55 pupils‚ and asked why the nearby English schools could not teach them. It added that it was too full to admit the learners.

Tensions flared over the saga‚ and played out outside the school as protestors gathered for a few days earlier in the year. This while pupils learnt inside. A petrol bomb was thrown at a police vehicle‚ allegedly by supporters of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas).

During the court battle‚ the department submitted that it had put all necessary measures in place to accommodate the 55 pupils‚ including furniture‚ study material and an English teacher.

Four cases between school governing bodies or education departments have landed up at the Constitutional Court in recent times‚ as parents and authorities argue over who has the power to determine language‚ religion and admission policies.

The court has‚ all four ‚times ordered authorities and governing bodies to work together in a “spirit of cooperative governance”.

In this case against Lesufi‚ the Constitutional Court refused to even hear the case‚ saying it had no prospect of success. It also ruled that the education department must pay the school’s legal fees.

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