A Rand Supreme Court judge this week said the National Education Crisis Committee could be viewed as aiming to overthrow the state by using school children and exploiting grievances around black education.
Mr Justice LTC Harms made this comment during his judgement which rejected New Nation editor Zwelakhe Sisulu's urgent application for his release from detention. His remark came shortly after government officials had apparently given the NECC some legitimacy by approaching it for comment on a new black education Bill. Justice Harms said the official reasons provided for Sisulu's 11-month detention were his alleged involvement in the executive of the NECC.
In a lengthy memorandum which Sisulu prepared for the Minister of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok, Sisulu denied that he belonged to the NECC executive. He stressed that his involvement in the education body formed after unrest had disrupted schooling was minimal. However, Justice Harms said Sisulu had admitted that he gave the keynote address at an NECC conference in April 1986.
The judge said it was clear from Sisulu's speech that "some of the NECC's aims were laudable while others were, to say the least, legitimate" – especially considering the complexities of the education crisis. But, Justice Harms added, "the speech as a whole does evince an intention to overthrow the state by using black children and exploiting the conditions and grievances surrounding black education".
The judge criticised the fact that Sisulu's memorandum had not been handed to Vlok. He said Sisulu could have had a legitimate expectation that his representations would be heard. But, the judge added, Sisulu had the "insuperable difficulty" that the Appeal Court had ruled this year that the minister of law and order's failure to consider a detainee's representation would have no legal consequence.
The judge rejected all the legal arguments Sisulu's lawyers advanced for his release, including what he called a "semantic quibble" about the phrasing of PW Botha's order promulgating the June 1987 Emergency.
* An application for the release of United Democratic Front leaders Murphy Morobe and Mohammad Valli is expected to be heard by the Rand Supreme Court on Tuesday.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.