Western Cape High Court to Hear Argument Tomorrow in Jacobus Du Plessis Botha NO & Others v MEC for Education of the Western Cape & Others
On Friday, 9 March 2012 at 10h00, Equal Education (EE), represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), will present legal argument in the hearing on the Grootkraal Primary School eviction case at the Cape High Court. EE joined the case as amicus curiae and will oppose the eviction of the public school from private property.
Grootkraal UCC Primary School is a rural farm school that has been operating close to the Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn, for over 80 years. It occupies a small piece of land situated on a larger private farm and currently accommodates 160 learners. However, Grootkraal Primary now faces and application for eviction after the farm was sold to the Kobot Besigheld Trust in 2009. The Trust’s plan is to convert the farm into a game reserve for visitors to the Cango Caves. Last month Grootkraal community members flooded Western Cape Education MEC, Donald Grant with letters pleading that he comes to the assistance of their school. The threat of eviction impacts on the constitutional right to basic education of the learners at the school and on the central role that the school plays within the community.
Many rural schools continue to endure the legacy of poor facilities and poor infrastructure associated with rural and farm schools. Historically the existence of farm schools was at the mercy of the private farm-owners. This situation was intended to be remedied by the South African Schools Act, 1996. Section 14 of the Schools Act obliged MEC’s for Education to conclude lease agreements with land owners to secure the tenure of public schools on private land within six months from the date the Act took effect. But in the majority of cases this has not happened. However, section 14 must be read together with section 58 of the Schools Act.
Section 58 of the Schools Act gives MECs for Education the power to expropriate land if “it is in the public interest to do so…for any purpose relating to school education in the province.” The power to expropriate land is given to the MEC for instances where landowners refused to enter into lease agreements in terms of section 14. Without the powers to expropriate property, Education Departments would be helpless in protecting the tenure of schools situated on private property, many of whom have historically faced continual insecurity of tenure. But, in this case the MEC does not appear to have properly considered the option to expropriate in terms of section 58 and has chosen to abide by the Court’s decision on eviction. Furthermore, the WCED has already begun making arrangements for the school to be relocated a further 17km from its current location.
As amicus curiae EE will ask the Court to:
· refuse the eviction order and compel the MEC to engage with the School Community on all available options; and
· Order the MEC to report to the Court on all possible options considered including the possibility of expropriating the land in the public interest and for the benefit of current and future generations of learners at Grootkraal Primary School.
Please note that this case is not to be confused with the recent court action launched by Equal Education against the Minister of Basic Education and all Provincial MECs for Education. That is a separate case, which involves specific questions of the failure of government to provide for adequate school infrastructure for all schools in South Africa.
For more information contact: Yoliswa Dwane /021 387 0022 or Dmitri Holtzman/ 082 733 5000