Grootkraal UCC Primary School is a rural farm school that has been operating close to the Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn, Western Cape 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 faced 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. The threat of eviction impacts on the constitutional right to basic education of the learners at the school and 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 insecure tenure. 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 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 has chosen not to make use of the powers given to him under section 58. Furthermore, the WCED has already begun making arrangements for the school to be relocated a 17km from its current location.
EE joined at case as amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) to oppose the eviction of the public school from private property. As amicus curiae to the case EE has asked the Court to:
- refuse the eviction order and compel the MEC to engage with the school community on all available options and that,
- the MEC be obliged 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 the Grootkraal Primary School.
First High Court Case (Interdict against closure)