DURBAN - CIVIL rights organisation AfriForum has accused the Department of Basic Education (DBE) of misapplying the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popi Act) by banning newspapers from publishing the matric results.
The organisation was expected to fight the ban unopposed by the department in the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday in an application by AfriForum, Maroela Media and a matric pupil Anlé Spies. AfriForum would support Spies’ argument in court.
AfriForum adviser on Education Rights and Private Prosecution, Natasha Venter, said the civil rights group would not allow the department to misapply the act because it would set a precedent for withholding information that was in the interest of the public under the guise of this legislation.
Public excitement that accompanied the publication of the results served as motivation for future matriculants, she said, adding that to water down the magnitude of the occasion would eventually undermine the pursuit of excellence in education.
Venter said they hoped the application would succeed and that the results would be available to matriculants on Thursday.
“Firstly, the misapplication of the Popi Act could not be left unchallenged. Secondly, we need to continue to strive for excellence and the publication of the results is a contributing factor to this. There is no harm in publishing the results, because only the examination numbers of students are published – this number is only known to each individual student. But those who do want to share their published results with loved ones should be able to do so.”
Anlé Spies, a Grade 12 pupil at Gereformeerde Hoërskool Dirk Postma in Pretoria, said she was not at home but with her mother on a farm in the Eastern Cape. She would have to report to the University of the Free State within a week of receiving her results. She said it was vital that she and many other pupils were able to access their results via the various media platforms.
In her affidavit filed on Friday, she argued that in publishing the matric results in the media and online, the DBE would not encroach on the Popi Act, as no personal information about the matriculants was released.
She told the Daily News that not publishing the results would destroy a fun and harmless tradition.
Last week Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that the results would no longer be published in newspapers and on social media platforms, citing psychological problems for failed pupils. She also supported her decision by quoting the Popi Act that came into effect in July last year.
The argument the judge is due to rule on will be whether releasing the matric pupils examination number should be regarded as revealing her (Spies’) identity.
On Sunday the department said it would not oppose the court application and pledged to abide by whatever decision the court would arrive at.
This was viewed by legal expert, advocate Mpumelelo Zikalala, as giving up on its earlier decision. He said if the application was not opposed technically the applicant won the case.
Zikalala, the coastal Black Lawyers Association chairperson, said the judge would no longer be worried about the merits of the case but would only look at whether the applicant’s affidavit was correctly filed and the relevant parties were served on time.
The department’s national spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, said they wanted to comply with the Popi Act but if the court provided guidance they would abide. The department was ready to deliver the statements of results to the schools where the candidates sat for the exams, he said.
Meanwhile, pupils differed on what would be the correct judgment on Tuesday.
Eli Govender, 18, said the decision made no difference as long as he would get his results. “We are still getting our results on the same day, just in a different way. The department took the right direction and the less stressful way to do this.”
Siyabonga Dlamini, 19 said getting his matric results privately was a dream come true. “We’ve always got our reports privately or via our parents or guardians. Why the unnecessary pressure now.”
Daniella de Villers, 19, said the decision was a disappointment. “I’m a top achiever because I work tirelessly to get good marks. I had hoped to see myself in a paper.”
Ayavuya Mbambo, 18, said he preferred the results published in newspapers as these were accessible by dawn.