Judge to rule on Friday whether leaked matric exams will be rewritten

Probe into leak will not be completed by February 2021, court hears

The Pretoria high court heard arguments in favour of a rewrite on Thursday. File photo.
The Pretoria high court heard arguments in favour of a rewrite on Thursday. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais

Judge Norman Davis will hand down judgment electronically on Friday as to whether two leaked matric examination papers will be rewritten.

Davis reserved judgment on Thursday at the Pretoria high court after hearing applications by AfriForum and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) to reverse a decision to rewrite physical science paper 2 and maths paper 2.

The court is also being asked to compel the basic education department and quality assurance body Umalusi to mark the scripts of four pupils represented by AfriForum and those who were not involved in any irregularity regarding the leaked papers.

Advocate Chris Erasmus, representing the basic education department, said it was best that pupils rewrote the papers while the material was still fresh in their minds.

“There is rationality in that we didn't want the learners to go on switch-off mode and then have to return to come and write. The material is still fresh in your mind as you have just previously written,” he said.

Erasmus told the court that the WhatsApp group on which one leaked paper was shared was not created by the department.

“The top achievers group was established by the University of Stellenbosch,” he said. 

“There are 195 students from all over SA in that group where the maths paper 2 was leaked. Only 71 learners have been contacted,” he added. 

Erasmus said some of the pupils could not be reached.

“The department may never know the identity of those who had access to the leaked paper [owing] to the fact that a large number of cellphone numbers found on the WhatsApp group are not registered in the respective owners' name,” he said.

Erasmus said the director-general took the ultimate decision on a rewrite. He said all stakeholders were consulted and the director-general made the decision. Basic education minister Angie Motshekga then announced the decision.

Umalusi had indicated to the department that it would not certify the two papers because they were irrevocably compromised.

Erasmus said one should also consider the consequences of no rewrite. “A no rewrite means a loss of the academic year. The investigation will not be concluded by February 23. They [pupils] then will not be accepted at higher learning institutions,” he said.

Umalusi legal representative advocate Dennis Fine said the main point was that the leak had gone viral. It would have been unfair to announce in 2021 that the marks would  not be approved.

“The point missed by advocates is that ... the investigations will not be finalised by 2021 February,” he said.

Basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said if pupils rewrote now, they would get their results in February.

“If the rewrite does not happen, it means that the department will continue with the  investigations beyond February. This is the risk that we are trying to protect the candidates from,” said Mhlanga.


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