Schweizer-Reneke – The North West MEC for Education, Sello Lehari, and the department are no longer opposing Thursday’s urgent application by suspended Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen to return to her post.
Lehari told labour union Solidarity late Wednesday afternoon that he decided to withdraw his opposition to Barkhuizen’s urgent application before the Johannesburg Labour Court to have her suspension set aside.
Lehari indicated that he will abide by the decision of the court.
Lawyer Werner Human said the application is still on the roll and the case will go-ahead as planned, as the court must rule on the legality of the suspension.
Lehari indicated to Solidarity that he will abide by the court’s ruling.
Both the school and its governing body earlier indicated that they too, will abide by the court’s ruling.
Lehari and the department were due to deliver their opposing papers by 4pm on Monday – a deadline which they had missed.
They informed Solidarity nearly 24 hours later by email that they will no longer oppose the application.
While Barkhuizen will not have opposition in her case, Human said it did not automatically mean that the judge will grant the order.
"The judge can still pose a few questions to us. The MEC in a statement sent to us acknowledged that he did not have the power to suspend Barkhuizen. He said ‘I have no powers to suspend the applicant and at anytime when reference was made to suspension, I was only confirming that what was conveyed to me by the governing body’."
Human said this was in spite of the fact that Lehari clearly stated in front of scores of people that it was his decision.
He said in spite of all this, Barkhuizen still had to obtain an order which would entitle her to return to the school and her fate was in the hands of the judge.
Barkhuizen was suspended on January 10, a day after the start of the 2019 academic year, after a picture she took of a fellow-teacher’s Grade R class went viral
It depicted the black pupils sitting at a separate table from the white children.
She was labelled a racist, but Barkhuizen explained in her affidavit that this was done for practical reasons and that the children were moved from time to time.
Human meanwhile confirmed that Barkhuizen will be at the court.