30/01/2018 16:31 SAST | Updated 30/01/2018 16:31 SAST

Gauteng Education Dept Taking Hoërskool Overvaal To ConCourt

Panyaza Lesufi will bypass SCA in his determination to force the Afrikaans school to accept English-speaking pupils.

Pontsho Mabena

Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi says the department is determined to take Hoërskool Overvaal to court.

"I can confirm that yesterday we finalised our documents as the department. We are now approaching the Constitutional Court directly – we are no longer appealing to the appeal court in Bloemfontein," Lesufi said on Tuesday.

This is despite reports that the national department would prefer the matter to be handled through mediation. Yesterday, reports said that minster of basic education Angie Motshekga acknowledged that it was actually an issue of resources, not language, and urged all parties to try to solve the matter through mediation.

"I said to the province, 'Let's not necessarily go and fight. This school belongs to us.' ... The school is not resisting [having] a parallel medium. It's a resource issue," Motshekga reportedly said.

The High Court in Pretoria ruled that the school didn't have space to admit 55 English-speaking pupils, and that changing the school's language policy was not lawful.

The judgment was followed by multiple protests at the school by political parties and community members.

"We need to meet the deadline of the court. You can't go to court and say: 'We are no longer appealing' if mediation succeeds. We are going to the courts if it fails."– Panyaza Lesufi

The MEC held a briefing at Reiger Park Secondary, another Gauteng school causing uproar after a video was shared online in which the school's principal is seen having sex with a pupil.

When asked about the inconsistencies between what he was saying and the education minister's statement, he said: "We need to meet the deadline of the court. You can't go to court and say: 'We are no longer appealing' if mediation succeeds. We are going to the courts if it fails – I do not think there is a different opinion."

"We said to the [national] department that all these processes are not mutually exclusive. That is why we are meeting with the SGB of the school, that is why we are meeting with AfriForum, that is why we are meeting with teacher unions," he said, insisting that the provincial department was "in touch with the basic education department on all these matters".

Calm restored at Hoërskool Overvaal

The MEC assured reporters that calm has been restored at Hoërskool Overvaal. He said he has been in negotiations with all stakeholders, who have agreed to give them time to resolve the matter.

Lesufi said he had a meeting with Motshekga and the South African Teachers Union (SAOU) – which represents the majority of teachers at the school – as well as AfriForum and Solidarity.

"We resolved that all parties will be open-minded, will not interfere with the legal processes, but will continue to engage... that meeting was very fruitful," he said.

"We don't have the kind of activities like the burning of tyres and people coming with guns outside the school premises," he said. "I had a session with the entire provincial leadership of the EFF. We requested them to move away from the school and give the legal process an opportunity... if they want to be friends of the courts, they can come through that process," Lesufi said.

He says the party has taken his advice.

Lesufi has also met with what he calls "the progressive left" – which includes the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), the South African Communist Party (SACP), the Young Communist League (YCL) and the ANC.

He also said he did not want organisations to "mobilise on the basis of race".

"There is an argument we are advancing as a department – we believe we are on solid ground. There is no need for us to panic. We really believe we have got a case that we can take and deal with this matter," he said.