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CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

pri­vate school based in Nel­spruit, which is no­to­ri­ous for ad­min­is­ter­ing cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment – and where a deputy min­is­ter’s niece died un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances – is re­main­ing open, thanks to bungling by the pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment. The head of the Mpumalanga ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment, Mahlasedi Mh­la­bane, ap­pears to have vi­o­lated reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing in­de­pen­dent schools when she made a de­ci­sion to shut down Ce­fups Academy.

Mh­la­bane dereg­is­tered the academy in Oc­to­ber last year af­ter Deputy Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Re­joice Mabudafhasi’s niece, Paballo Seanne (19), died in July af­ter she was al­legedly sjam­bokked for fail­ing a test.

In re­sponse, Ce­fups Academy pres­i­dent Si­mon Mkhatshwa lodged an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion in the North Gaut­eng High Court, where he ob­tained an or­der set­ting aside Mh­la­bane’s de­ci­sion to dereg­is­ter the school.

The court found the depart­ment had erred be­cause it had not supplied the school with ad­di­tional af­fi­davits to sup­port a re­port com­piled by a de­part­men­tal task team into oper­a­tions at Ce­fups.

It also found that the school should have been fur­nished with the re­sults of the post­mortem of the pupil who died be­fore the de­ci­sion to shut it down was en­forced.

Ac­cord­ing to the court, the head of the pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment should have given the school’s man­age­ment an op­por­tu­nity to rec­tify their mis­take, as stip­u­lated in the reg­u­la­tions.

In terms of the dereg­is­tra­tion no­tice, Ce­fups should have closed down at the be­gin­ning of this year, but be­cause of Mh­la­bane’s ad­min­is­tra­tive mis­han­dling of the mat­ter, the school re­mains open.

Ad­vo­cate Nor­man Davis, act­ing on be­half of the depart­ment, ad­vised it against op­pos­ing the high court or­der, which set aside the depart­ment’s de­ci­sion to dereg­is­ter the academy, say­ing this would be “waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture” be­cause it had lit­tle chance of suc­cess.

In his le­gal opin­ion, Davis ad­vised that although the de­ci­sion to dereg­is­ter the school was the cor­rect one, the depart­ment had to redo the en­tire process and fol­low all cor­rect pro­ce­dures this time around.

“[Fol­low­ing pro­ce­dures] would avoid waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture in op­pos­ing lit­i­ga­tion, where there is a risk or rea­son­able prospect of fail­ure. It would clean the ta­ble, as it were, for a new de­ci­sion to be made,” wrote Davis.

But de­spite the le­gal opin­ion, the depart­ment has de­cided to op­pose the or­der ob­tained by the school’s man­age­ment any­way.

Mpumalanga ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Jasper Zwane said: “The court ruled in favour of the school on their ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion. The nor­mal/main ap­pli­ca­tion is still pend­ing in court and a process is in place to present the case of the depart­ment.

“The depart­ment is hope­ful the court will rule in the best in­ter­est of the safety of pupils.”

Paballo Innocentia

Seanne

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