Top lawyer takes school to Supreme Court over fees

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Mashudu Net­sianda Se­nior Court Re­porter

PROM­I­NENT Bu­l­awayo lawyer Mr Nd­abez­inhle Maz­ibuko has taken Chris­tian Broth­ers Col­lege (CBC) to the Supreme Court chal­leng­ing its ex­or­bi­tant fees and fail­ure to pro­vide text­books and sta­tionery to pupils.

Mr Maz­ibuko, who had a son do­ing A-Level at the af­flu­ent school in Mat­sheumh­lope suburb, ac­cused CBC of in­creas­ing fees willy-nilly with­out the ap­proval of the Na­tional In­comes and Pric­ing Com­mis­sion and the Min­istry of Pri­mary and Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion.

Mr Maz­ibuko’s ap­peal through his lawyers, Calderwood, Bryce Hen­drie and Part­ners, fol­lowed the dis­missal of his ap­pli­ca­tion by Bu­l­awayo High Court judge Jus­tice Martin Makonese last year.

In his rul­ing, the judge said there was no good ground for the court to re­view the school’s long stand­ing poli­cies on school fees and its re­la­tion­ship with par­ents.

Jus­tice Makonese ar­gued that the court had no ba­sis to in­ter­fere in cases in­volv­ing pri­vate con­trac­tual re­la­tion­ships.

Mr Maz­ibuko sought an or­der com­pelling the school to pro­vide pupils with text­books to jus­tify its “ex­or­bi­tant” fees.

In his grounds of ap­peal cit­ing the CBC board of gov­er­nors, the Na­tional In­comes and Pric­ing Com­mis­sion and the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in Min­istry of Pri­mary and Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion as re­spon­dents, Mr Maz­ibuko said the lower court’s de­ci­sion was mis­di­rected.

“It is sub­mit­ted that the court a quo dis­missed the ap­pli­ca­tion on the sole ba­sis that the ap­pel­lant had signed a con­tract with the first re­spon­dent (CBC), which pre­vented the court from in­ter­fer­ing with the con­tract. How­ever, in terms of the sec­tions 4 of Ad­min­is­tra­tive Jus­tice Act and the Con­sumer Con­tracts Act, the court is ac­tu­ally em­pow­ered at law to in­ter­fere in the con­tract and grant ap­pro­pri­ate re­lief,” ar­gued Mr Maz­ibuko.

He said other pres­ti­gious schools in the city were pro­vid­ing text­books from the money paid in fees and queried why CBC was the odd one out.

Mr Maz­ibuko claimed 80 per­cent of the school’s bud­get went to­wards pay­ing teach­ers’ salaries and al­lowances at the ex­pense of his son’s ed­u­ca­tion, ar­gu­ing that it was a vi­o­la­tion of chil­dren’s right to ed­u­ca­tion.

The lawyer said he was spend­ing more than $400 on text­books and sta­tionery.

Mr Maz­ibuko claimed that he raised the is­sue in 2011 at a par­ents meet­ing when his other son was still at the school but noth­ing has been done, de­spite the ma­jor­ity of par­ents agree­ing with him.

CBC, through its lawyers, Webb, Low and Barry, ar­gued that it was com­mon cause that Mr Maz­ibuko and the school were as­so­ci­ated with each other vol­un­tar­ily by a rea­son of a con­tract signed be­tween the two par­ties.

“The ap­pel­lant bound him­self by sign­ing the con­tract, to ob­serve all rules put in place by the school or by a head­mas­ter. Since CBC opened its doors in 1954, the school has a rule or set­tled prac­tice that it will not pro­vide text­books for pupils en­rolled, but will leave it to the par­ents to do so. The ap­pel­lant there­fore bound him­self to this rule and ac­cepted it for nine years,” said the CBC lawyers.

Supreme Court judge Jus­tice Padding­ton Garwe sit­ting with Jus­tices Ben Hlatshwayo and Annie Marie Gowora dur­ing a cir­cuit in Bu­l­awayo re­served judg­ment.

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