EDUCATION MEC Senzo Mchunu has lost an appeal, with costs, against a young man who suffered an eye injury nine years ago back in his school days.
Simphiwe Shange was an indirect victim of corporal punishment, having been struck in the eye by the buckle of a belt his deputy principal allegedly used to hit a fellow pupil.
Aged 15 and in Grade 9 at Gcwalulwazi High School, near Eshowe, at the time, he accepted his teacher’s explanation that it had all been “a mistake”.
For three years, Shange simply lived with the consequences until, when he was 18 and wearing an eye patch, a family friend encouraged him to report the matter to the Public Protector.
Eventually, he took the matter to the high court in Durban to recover damages from the MEC, and won in June last year.
But the MEC lodged an appeal.
The Supreme Court of Appeal noted on Friday that Shange had been totally reliant on prompting by others with more insight to take steps to enforce his claim.
“The way in which he has been gravely let down in this regard is a distinguishing feature of this case,” the court papers read. “The absence of the guidance of his legal guardian is glaringly evident.
“His own teacher led him to believe that nothing could be done about the incident.”
“Shange’s sincere belief that his teacher’s explanation put an end to the matter was never challenged by the MEC.
“It serves to adequately explain the delay in any steps having been taken until January 2006.”
The court papers noted that Shange’s misfortune had not ended when he consulted his attorney.
In spite of taking reasonably prompt action in dispatching a notice, the lawyer had incorrectly addressed it to the Minister of Education and not the MEC.
The appeal court excused Shange for his attorney’s mistake and said it was satisfied that a good case existed for the failure by Shange to have given timely notice to the MEC.