/ 18 April 2012

Motshekga to challenge Equal Education in court

The basic education department will challenge litigation the NGO Equal Education has brought against it in the Bhisho High Court.

State lawyers on Tuesday filed notice of intention to oppose the action. Minister Angie Motshekga’s department is the first respondent in the highly publicised action and its notice to oppose is an indication that it will challenge Equal Education over the NGO’s demand that the department promulgates regulations prescribing minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure.

“Indeed the [department] will oppose the litigation. Unfortunately our reasons to oppose are sub judice, and therefore we cannot disclose them before the matter is heard in court,” Hope Mokgatlhe, Motshekga’s spokesperson, told the Mail & Guardian.

Motshekga’s department became the third respondent to file notice to oppose, with the Eastern Cape education department and the provincial government having done so two weeks ago already.

But the Eastern Cape education department this week told the M&G it will no longer oppose the court matter despite having filed notice to oppose, and it will instead improve infrastructure in the two schools that have joined Equal Education as co-applicants.

Infrastructure committees in Mwezeni Senior Primary School and Mkanzini Junior Secondary School joined the NGO as second and third applicants respectively, and sought court order to compel the provincial education to fix their dilapidated structures. Mkanzini was gutted by fire in July 2009, and Mwezeni’s mud classrooms were severely damaged by heavy rain early last year.

‘Matter is still sub judice’
The Western Cape education department, the 12th respondent, will not oppose and filed notice to abide by a court order on Monday this week. But its spokesperson, Bronagh Casey, could not comment further and said: “The matter is still sub judice until a decision by the court.”

The nine other respondents, including Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and provincial education ministers in the eight other provinces, are yet to file after having missed court deadline set for last Friday. “I am putting pressure on to get clarity on the position of the other respondents,” said Cameron McConnachie, the Legal Resources Centre attorney representing all applicants.

Equal Education wants Motshekga to promulgate regulations prescribing minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure, a move it believes would set clear guidelines for school infrastructure and holding the government accountable over failure to provide appropriate structures.

In its court papers the NGO maintains that 92% of the country’s 25 000 schools do not have proper libraries and 395 schools in the Eastern Cape operate in mud classrooms, this is while 600 schools in KwaZulu-Natal have no toilets. Furthermore, about 3 600 schools do not have electricity.