The Grootkraal Primary school matter was back in Court today, as the community sought permission to appeal a judgment handed down by Judge Elizabeth Baartman in August 2017. The Western Cape Education MEC, Debbie Schafer and the Kobut Besigheid Trust also reported on their unsuccessful attempts at negotiating a lease agreement that would ensure the school’s survival.
Grootkraal Primary is a rural farm school that has been operating on a small piece of land, forming part of a larger private farm, close to the Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn for over 80 years. The school faces eviction after the farm was sold to the Trust in 2009. The Trust intends turning the farm into a game reserve and brought a case to secure the removal of the school. The community also entered the fray, asking the Court to recognise that the community has certain rights over the land on which the school stands.
The case has been in court for almost six years. In August, presiding Judge Baartman refused the community’s claim and ordered the Western Cape Education MEC, Debbie Schafer, to engage with the Trust to find a possible solution and to file reports on their efforts with her before returning to Court today. In its report, the Trust remains steadfast that the school ultimately be cleared from the farm. The Department’s report states that the MEC cannot make a final decision on her plans for Grootkraal, including possible merger or closure, until the court has either granted or refused the eviction.
Judge Baartman was scathing of counsel for the MEC in court this morning because of MEC Schafer’s persistent failure to provide the Court with a clear and definitive position on her intentions for Grootkraal Primary. Counsel for the MEC stated that the Trust and MEC were far apart on reaching a lease agreement as they disagreed on the amount of rental, duration and the extent of the property to be leased. Yet the MEC’s report does not make reference to expropriation despite the SA Schools Act allowing for this. Equal Education has been calling for expropriation of the land on which the school sits for the benefit of the rural farm worker, Grootkraal Community and its children since joining the case in 2012.
Counsel for the landowner, during his address to the judge, described the eviction of Grootkraal as not being an injustice. This prompted the community’s counsel, Anne-Marie De Vos, to ask the judge to formally record the community’s deep offence to this statement. De Vos countered that the removal of Grootkraal Primary was an undebatable injustice.
Judge Baartman has granted the community permission to appeal their case for formal recognition of usage rights over the land in the Supreme Court of Appeal. The decision on eviction has been postponed to 29 March 2018 to provide MEC Schafer with an opportunity to make a final decision on her plans for Grootkraal Primary.
For media enquiries:
Lisa Draga (Equal Education Law Centre, attorney) 072 6500214
Llewyn Metembo (Grootkraal Primary, Principal) 078 998 5881