Court cans Motshekga’s leaked matric rewrite plans

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga PHOTO: GCIS

The judgment from an urgent court application involving AfriForum, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) and other concerned parties, disputing the decision to have matriculants rewrite their exams, has been heard in the Gauteng High Court. 

Court papers were filed on Tuesday, and all arguments were heard simultaneously on Thursday by Judge Norman Davis.

Parties filed motions against Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, the National Examinations Irregularities Committee, and the Umalusi Council, the body for quality assurance. Sadtu’s motion included education MECs in all nine provinces. 

The judgment has set aside the rewriting of maths paper two and physical science paper two.

Motshekga and the NEIC have been ordered to take “necessary steps to ensure that the examination answer scripts of those learners who have not been found to have been involved in irregularities pertaining to the examination of the above mentioned papers, including the individual applicants in these urgent applications, be marked in accordance with the management plan for the said examinations…” 

Motshekga and the NEIC must also jointly pay the costs of all four applicants and legal counsel. 

Judge Norman Davis found the the rewrite suggestion to be “irregular and unlawful”. 

He also said that learners have a right to have their examination papers marked, “irrespective of whatever proposal or certifications may be made by Umalusi, now or in the future”.

Judge Davis found that Umalusi’s fears that the leaks may have been “viral” was not realistic. 

“Even if the extent of the leakage is hundredfold of that already identified, the question is still whether a 6% compromise would result in a non0certification. Umalusi has not even considered this or at least not done so on the papers.”

Motshekga made a decision earlier this month to have all matriculants who sat down for mathematics paper two and physical science paper two to rewrite their exams, after answers were leaked. 

AfriForum and Sadtu both want Motshekga’s announcement that the exams be rewritten at a later date be declared “ultra vires, invalid and unconstitutional and accordingly set aside”, AfriForum’s motion reads. 

0.05% of the entire class of 2020 has been implicated in the leaks – 195 known students for the maths exam, who are said to be part of the top achievers WhatsApp group under the tutelage of Stellenbosch University, and 60 pupils for the physical science exam, or 0.02%. Four possible additions have since been added to the group of 195, the court heard on Thursday. 

Advocate Johan Botha, representing Itha Wessels and other pupils, said that ultimately, the decision did not lie with Motshekga, but with the director-general of the department, Mathanzima Hubert Mweli, in conjunction with Umalusi and other relevant assessment bodies. 

Advocate Thys Strydom said the country was being held ransom due to Umalusi’s decision that the leaks had irrevocably threatened the integrity and credibility of the articles. 

Umalusi had previously expressed concerns that there would not be enough time to mount a full-scale investigation by the time it had to certify results on 23 February. 

The Citizen / Nica Richards