Unpaid salaries: E Cape education continues ping-pong

The department says it will counter the court order against it. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The department says it will counter the court order against it. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The Eastern Cape education department has lashed back at lawyers after they got a writ of attachment asking the Eastern Cape High Court to take its assets in lieu of unpaid teacher salaries.

"Obviously we will also be seeking urgent legal relief to counter this latest decision. We have clearly demonstrated our commitment to live up to expectations," departmental spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said.

According to the State Liability Act, the state still has 30 days to pay up or give up its assets.

"An updated progress report on compliance with the court order was made available to Legal Resources Centre [as] a show of our goodwill and commitment to fully comply with all court orders …" Pulumani said.

The Legal Resources Centre, on behalf of the Centre for Child Law and 17 schools obtained a court order on June 6 forcing the department to pay salaries of unpaid teachers by June 30. Knowing that the department might not comply with the order, the Legal Resources Centre asked for a clause to be included, which allowed the Legal Resources Centre to apply to attach the state's assets to cover the debt.

Pulumani said the department has complied with all but 1% of the court order and would be addressing this in the next few days.

The province's education minister might be forced to use public transport if the assets are actually removed.

Assets attached
Assets "should include all motor vehicles, including that of the province's education minister, " the Legal Resources Centre said on Tuesday.

The writ of attachment directs the sheriff to attach movable goods to the value of over R619 000 belonging to "the minister of basic education, the director general … the minister of the Eastern Cape education department, and the head of department".

The centre's regional director Sarah Sephton said the sheriff will now do a "blanket attachment but is not allowed to actually remove any assets".
According to the state liability act, she said, the state still has 30 days to pay up or give up its assets.

Sephton said the department's "blatant refusal to abide by court orders which they consent to with full knowledge of their obligations is a disgrace. The minister, the director general, the provincial minister and the head of department are contemptuous of court processes and they should be censured."

The department was not available for comment at the time of publishing.

Victoria John

Victoria John

Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011. Read more from Victoria John

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