DURBAN - THE North Gauteng High Court judgment which set aside the Basic Education Department’s decision to ban the publication of matric results by newspapers has been hailed as a victory by media houses.
The court ordered the first respondent, the Basic Education minister, to publish the results on public platforms as was the practice in the previous years, adding that it must be done concurrently with making available the results to the schools that had been attended by the pupils.
In its judgment, the court ordered that pupils’ names or surnames should not be reflected on the publication.
“The resolution of the First, alternatively the Fourth Respondent as reflected in a letter dated 10 January 2022 is set aside.
“The First Respondent is ordered to pay the Applicants’ cost on an unopposed scale,” concludes the judgment.
South African Editors Forum’s chairperson Sbu Ngalwa said they were pleased with the court's ruling as it validated their view that the publishing of matric results was not in contravention of the POPI Act.
“This decision will go a long way in ensuring the free flow of information and underlines the importance of the media's role in the dissemination of information and being of service to our audiences.”
The department welcomed the ruling, reiterating it’s earlier position that it would abide by it.
Civil rights organisation AfriForum, which was one of the three applicants, said it was in the public interests that this information was shared, adding that this was one of the reasons why the group brought the application.
“We are delighted that the court agreed with us in this argument,” said Natasha Venter, AfriForum’s manager of education rights and private prosecution.
The group, Maroela Media and a Grade 12 pupil, Anle Spies, had taken the department to court over the ban, accusing the department of misapplying the POPI (Protection of Personal Information) Act.
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.
This drew mixed reactions from various stakeholders, some welcoming it as long overdue while others, including various media houses, slamming it as ridiculous, saying it was not going to make any difference.
Spokesperson for the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) Douglas Ngobeni said the department was taking people for a ride by not opposing the application by AfriForum.
“They made the announcement of not publishing but when the issue is presented in court they do not oppose. We are planning to challenge this outcome legally,” said Ngobeni.
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) insisted that the mass publishing of the matric results put pupils under undue pressure from their immediate communities, leading to them undergoing unimaginable extremes in dealing with the pressure.
Sadtu said it was taken aback by the high court ruling on the mass publication of results.
“It is our strong view that this ruling and those that brought the matter to court are about protecting the business interests of media houses above those of the pupils and their parents, ” said general secretary Mugwena Maluleke.
National Teachers' Union general secretary Cynthia Barnes said publishing the results only benefited some.
“This is beneficial to pupils who went to school with enough resources and most of them were probably inspired by this act.
“Meanwhile, it could be a hard pill to swallow for those in the rural areas due to shortage of resources,'' said Barnes.
Meanwhile, Umalusi, the Quality Council in General and Further Education and Training, has approved the release of the 2021 national examinations results after conducting quality assurance successfully.