Pupils resist eviction

2014-01-15 00:00

PUPILS at Sacred Heart High in Verulam, Durban, yesterday said they were tired of the feud between the owner of the land on which the school is built and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education.

Yesterday they again had to look on as the sheriff of the court served the school with an eviction notice, which includes the boarding houses.

The battle between the department and landowner Professor Marius Maritz has been going on for years now.

Maritz owns the land where both Oakford Primary and Sacred Heart High schools are situated.

The eviction order had parents and pupils — who arrived ahead of the opening of schools today — in a state of panic when they were greeted “by the sight of men carrying big guns trying to evict them”.

One of the pupils said she was sitting outside on the benches when she started hearing loud noises.

She said there were armed men who wanted them and the teachers out of the school. “I was so shocked. I started panicking and was worried about what is going to happen to us and our education,” she said.

Another matriculant said they have been kept in the dark about what is going at her school. “But you always see there is something going on,” she said.

But the pupils were unanimous in their pledge that they love their school and want to do well.

Throughout last year, Maritz has been closing access to the school property due to the department not paying for certain services, forcing children and teachers to walk the longer distances to school.

The Durban high court judge last year issued an interim order for Maritz to unlock the gates.

Verulam police spokesperson Warrant Officer Mandla Khumalo, who was at the scene, said the matter calmed down after they told the sheriff that they had no manpower to protect him and the eviction team accompanying him.

He said by the look of things the situation was going to turn violent because the parents and community were against the eviction.

The school scored a 100% matric pass rate last year and many feel these disruptions could interfere with good pass marks in future.

The school has a capacity to carry 600 pupils but numbers at Sacred Heart have been dwindling over the years to about 400 because of the uncertainties at the school, community members said.

School governing body chairperson Mfanje Mbango said he is disheartened that the matter has dragged on for so long without a workable solution.

The former MEC for Education Senzo Mchunu, who is now KZN’s premier, promised the community during his tenure that the department would expropriate the land.

But Mbango said they still do not know how far advanced that process is.

Mbango vowed to fight until the bitter end.

“We won’t allow an individual to jeopardise the integrity of education,” he stressed. He accused Maritz of not being reachable for comment yesterday.

The department’s spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said he was not aware of the court interdict and they are still investigating.

Maritz said the matter pertaining to the Sacred Heart Secondary School, the Sacred Heart Hostel Trust and Oakford Priory Investments (Pty) Ltd has been heard and judged by the Durban High Court.

“The respondents thereafter applied for leave to appeal, which was rejected. The respondents thereafter petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal and the application for leave to appeal was duly dismissed,” said Maritz.

He said they then approached the court and obtained the court order.

“On 14 January 2014 the sheriff of the court attended the premises in order to execute the eviction order.

“The sheriff was restrained from completing such eviction by the actions of the school community and the community in general,” he added.

He said with the regards to expropriation of the school property, the Department of Education had published the notice of intention to expropriate more than 14 months ago but the expropriation has not been concluded.

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