[lg policy] Hoërskool Overvaal: Lesufi's awful record

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Jan 25 10:54:25 EST 2018

Hoërskool Overvaal: Lesufi's awful record
Sara Gon |
24 January 2018
Sara Gon says the Gauteng education MEC recklessly lights and feeds racial

*Send in the Scoundrels*

To misquote Samuel Johnson, anti-white racism is the last refuge of the
scoundrel. In this sorry tale, there are a number of scoundrels.

The first is Member of the Elective Council (MEC) for Education in Gauteng,
Panyaza Lesufi. To some in the local media, Lesufi is a superstar –
articulately and in dulcet tones slaying white, racist dragons in schools
for violating the rights of their black victims.

Except this crusader often lights the racial fires or feeds the
conflagration. But his besotted media following takes his word.

Lesufi did this with Pretoria High School for Girls
<http://politicsweb.co.za/opinion/phsg-was-it-all-as-it-seems>. In the
En Kalfies pre-school debacle
his reaction was a knee-jerk allegation of racism deduced from a photo on
social media. Lesufi tweeted that he was going there to “face-off with

As with Pretoria Girls, Lesufi invited his 29 000 Twitter followers to join
him in confronting the school. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he re-tweeted
photos of the toddlers‚ which enabled the public to identify them.

Now he has tarred Hoërskool Overvaal with the brush of racism to hide the
GDE’s incompetence and failures.

On 9 January 2018, the school approached the North Gauteng High Court for
an urgent application to overturn a Gauteng Department of Education’s (GDE)
decision to force the school to accept 55 pupils who wanted to be taught in
English. The school argued that it had reached capacity; the GDE argued
that it had used language to exclude the 55. It is not within the scope of
this article to deal with the judgment in detail, but the reference is

Among the emotionally manipulative statements contained in the GDE’s
response to Overvaal’s application were the following: “Language could not
be used to segregate pupils”; “The school's Afrikaans-only language policy
was previously rejected by the education department”, and that “Afrikaans
was a language that symbolised ‘sorrow and tears to the majority of those
(of) whom it was not their mother tongue’”.

These comments are in breach of the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996
(SASA) and the Gauteng Schools’ Education Act 6 of 1995 (“The Act”).

Overvaal is an Afrikaans-medium school. Its refusal to accommodate the 55
was because the school was already at capacity, with pupils who accepted
Afrikaans as the medium of instruction, including black children. A
single-medium school cannot become a dual-medium school overnight.

The Act sets out grounds for admission: Section 18 (A) provides that the
governing body must determine the language policy of the school subject to
the Constitution and SASA.

Section 18(2) obliges the governing body to submit a copy of the language
policy to the MEC for vetting and noting. If at any time the MEC believes
that the language policy of a public school does not comply with the Act’s
principles or the Constitution, the MEC, after consultation with the
governing body, may direct that the language policy of the school be
reformulated (Section 18(3)).

SASA states: “The governing body of a public school may determine the
language policy of the school subject to the Constitution, this Act and any
applicable provincial law. No form of racial discrimination may be
practised in implementing policy determined under this section.”

So if a school refuses to admit a pupil because he is black, it is unfair
discrimination. If the school refuses admission to a pupil who refuses to
learn in the medium of instruction, then it is not unfair discrimination.

The Basic Education Laws Amendment Law of 2017 proposes some far-reaching
changes. The provincial Head of Department (HOD), the MEC’s immediate
subordinate, will in future approve all governing bodies’ admissions

The HOD may direct a school to adopt more than one language of instruction,
after taking certain prescribed factors into account, and after the
prescribed procedures have been followed. Various considerations include
the best interests of the child, the interest of the community and
classroom space. (Our underlining)

Lesufi has been champing at the bit to get his hands on suburban schools,
and get language and admissions policy-making away from governing bodies
and into his hands.

Currently, the law does not support an MEC who tells a school, one month
before the new year starts, that it must become a dual-medium school.

The Court gave Lesufi and his subordinates a judicial tongue-lashing:

“The second respondent [the district director] and perhaps the HOD and the
MEC [Lesufi] acted in conflict with the constitutional principle of
legality…the 5 December decision was unlawful and falls to be set aside on
review….The action was taken for the reason not authorised by the
empowering provision and irrelevant considerations were taken into account
and relevant considerations were not considered…there are also well known
grounds of bias and irrational conduct.”

The Court found the GDE’s submissions regarding the language allegations

The GDE stated that governing bodies do not determine whether a school is
full. The GDE said that “the school, with 21 classrooms, has a capacity of
840 learners, but currently only accepts 621. Additional furniture and
textbooks have already been procured and an English educator will be
appointed for the pupils.”

But remember, Overvaal is a high school. Will there be 55 pupils in one
class? How will one English speaking teacher be competent to teach all the
subjects that the school offers? How will the timetable work? How and by
whom will it be funded?

The GDE often decides whether a school is full without having regard to the
difference in class sizes, nor to health and safety concerns. Overvaal was
told it could convert its science laboratories to accommodate the
additional children.

The District Director (Director) particularly raised the court’s ire.
Directors deal directly with the schools. Principals can attest to how
impossible their lives can be made, depending on who their Director is. In
this case the judge found her “obvious bias” regrettable.

Her comments included those mentioned earlier – that “Language could not be
used to segregate pupils”; “The school's Afrikaans-only language policy was
previously rejected by the education department”, and that “Afrikaans was a
language that symbolised ‘sorrow and tears to the majority of those (of)
whom it was not their mother tongue’”.

On 7 December Overvaal’s attorney sent a letter to the GDE advising it that
its instructions may be illegal and asking the GDE to reconsider the
admissions. The attorney asked for a response by 14 December. No response
was received.

Overvaal then issued its application to court on 20 December. It was set
down to be heard on 9 January. Judgment was handed down on Monday 15
January with school due to start on Wednesday, 17 January.

A crushing legal defeat of the GDE did nothing to deter Economic Freedom
Front (EFF), African National Congress (ANC) and Black First, Land First
(BLF) supporters from being at the school bright and early, and ready for a

As we know, the EFF and BLF are unabashed anti-white racists. So, too, are
some in the ANC. It is fair to say that little about the violence that
erupted was spontaneous. The protest was designed to elicit a reaction from
Afrikaans parents. Some of the parents of the 55 threatened to burn the
school down.

Inevitably, teargas and rubber bullets were used. But it is clear that the
EFF, BLF and the ANC-aligned Congress of South African Students were there
to aggravate not conciliate.

Notwithstanding the court’s judgment, critics continued to wrongly accuse
Overvaal of excluding children via its language policy.

Steve Labona, spokesman for Lesufi, said last Wednesday that “there is a
need for English to be taught here. It is a short-lived celebration ….we
will fight it to the last court.” He added: “The situation does not allow
for the MEC to come here.” No conciliation there, then.

It is probably a matter of time before Lesufi and his colleagues get the
powers they want. The appalling majority judgment of the Constitutional
Court regarding the removal of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at the
University of Free State points the way.

Overvaal may become a dual-medium school in the future, but there is a lot
more process to be followed before this happens. The GDE may find that more
Afrikaans-speaking pupils will want to go to Overvaal, and they won’t be

Until then Lesufi must apply the law and spend less time playing the false

*Sara Gon is a Policy Fellow at the SA Institute of Race Relations (IRR) –
a liberal think tank that promotes political and economic freedom*


The judgment
in the Overvaal case;

*Ho**ë**rskool Overvaal saga: Judge's five most scathing quotes*, TimesLive
16 January 2018, Sipho Mabena;

*Lesufi must be fired over handling of alleged racist incident: FF
Plus *HeraldLive,
July 14, 2016, Penwell Dlamini;

*Ho**ërskool Overvaal: Voice note goes viral as protesters gather**,*
News24,* 18 January 2018;*
Lesufi cancels Hoerskool Overvaal’s visit amid protests *SABC Radio *17
January 2018,  -

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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