Top lawyer takes school to Supreme Court over fees
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.