Landowner ordered to unlock gates for pupils

2013-09-19 00:00

CHILDREN at Oakford Primary and Sacred Heart High in Verulam will again be able to walk freely through the gates that give them access to their schools, after a preliminary order by the Durban high court yesterday.

Delivering his ruling, Judge Anton van Zyl made it clear that the interest of the pupils was paramount and ordered landowner Professor Marius Maritz to unlock the gates.

However, he added that the order does not mean that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education is exempted from paying for the use of the access road, as per agreement with the land owner.

The department and Maritz, who owns the land on which the schools are situated, had been locked in a long battle for years over the entrance to the schools.

Maritz was not at court yesterday, but was represented by advocate Vinay Gajoo.

Classes at the school were on various occasions disrupted when Maritz locked the main entrance, gate one, forcing pupils and teachers to use another entrance a further two kilometres away.

Gajoo said his client had communicated with the department that gate one would be closed due to an environmental impact assessment by the Department of Water Affairs and that he had constructed another road for pupils to use.

Maritz bought the land from the Dominican Association of South Africa, at the time that the Department of Water Affairs was upgrading Hazelmere Dam situated along the border of Maritz’s property.

It was also heard that the department owed Maritz money.

According to Gajoo, his client and the department agreed that they will pay for using the road.

The department’s affidavit, presented by Mike Govindasamy SC, stated that the department had to incur substantial costs for transporting pupils to the other gate — R600 000 for the past five months.

The parties are due back in court on October 25. But that did not stop parents from rejoicing.

Chairperson of the school governing body Peggy Maphumulo said she was very happy that the gates will be opened after the four-year battle with the landowner. She said children have been affected by the ordeal.

Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi welcomed the order.

“The winners here are the pupils, because the fight was about making sure that children have access to education, which is their right.”

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