Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education’s fleet is to be auctioned because it has missed the deadline to settle a R3.9 million damages claim.
The department had until last Friday to pay the claim to Simphiwe Shange, now 26, after a ruling in May by Durban High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay.
Judge Pillay found the department liable for damages after Shange was partially blinded in the right eye when he was hit by a belt wielded by his school’s deputy principal in 2003.
The sheriff attached the department’s 708 vehicles – mostly Toyota Hilux, Isuzu and Nissan Hardbody bakkies – last December after the department failed to pay the claim.
Shange’s lawyer, Elana Hannington, said on Sunday: “The sheriff has instructions to remove the attached assets and proceed with a sale in execution.” The sale would take time as it had to be advertised in two newspapers.
The vehicles were also attached to satisfy a claim from Sants, a private higher education institution, which said it was owed funds for the tuition of more than 1 000 students.
The institution, which offers four-year teaching programmes, took the department to court last year and in November the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled that the department was liable for the bursaries. The department has until later this month to pay.
Where the same items have been attached by more than one creditor, the goods are auctioned and the money is shared by the creditors.
Commenting on the Shange case on Sunday, department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi confirmed payment had not been made.
He said he was unaware of the deadline, but he believed the department’s legal unit was dealing with the matter.
Asked if the department would let the sale go ahead, Mahlambi said the situation would be dealt with to avoid such an outcome.
National Teachers Union deputy president Allen Thompson said the department had a culture of non-payment and owed the union legal costs for an application it won in 2011.
Thompson said that if the vehicles were sold, provincial and district education officials would be left without transport.
Anthony Pierce, the head of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa in KZN, said the loss of the vehicles would have a negative impact on schooling.