The Gauteng education department believes the Constitutional Court should pronounce once and for all on the issue surrounding the admission of English pupils to the Afrikaans Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging to put an end to the controversy as soon as possible.
The department has applied for leave to appeal directly to the Constitutional Court against a High Court ruling in Pretoria which set aside the Department’s directive that the school must admit 55 English medium learners this year, thus becoming a dual-medium school.
It has also filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, should the Constitutional Court turn down the department’s bid for direct access.
The head of the department, Edward Mosuwe, cited the sustained controversy, demonstrations and racially polarised confrontations at the school, which has already led to bloodshed, among the reasons why it was in the interest of justice for the Constitutional Court to hear the appeal.
He said the department needed to bring calm to the situation at the school, which could erupt again at any moment and sought to avoid a situation where the unfortunate incidents around the admissions process at Overvaal was repeated in next year’s admissions process either at Overvaal or at other schools in the province.
Mosuwe said even if a substantive judgment was unable to dispose of all the issues that could give rise to admissions disputes for 2019, it was important that the correct procedure for the ventilation of disputes in the courts should be determined before any such disputes reached the courts.
He said there was a public interest in a decision on the question of the non-joinder of the 55 learners at the heart of the dispute in time to protect other learners in 2019 from suffering the same fate in court hearings that were heard in their absence and without them being afforded a chance to state their case.
“They’re entitled to a final decision that will ensure that they know where they stand in time to act on that knowledge at the start of the 2019 school year,” he said.
Mosuwe stressed that the school was situated in an area in which Afrikaans speakers were a minority, with over half of the school’s learners coming from outside a 5km radius.
He raised 12 grounds of review, including the non-joinder of the 55 affected learners, the school’s capacity and the capacity of neighbouring schools and attacked the judge’s finding that the Afrikaans community was “an embattled minority group against whom the department was biased” as not being based on facts.