File photo: David Ritchie / African News Agency (ANA)
A row has erupted over a non-halaal caterer at the Western Cape Sports School in Kuils River after the parents of nine Muslim pupils accused the school governing body (SGB) of appointing Star Catering from Khayelitsha without parents’ knowledge.

The parents claimed their children had been consuming food not permissible for Muslims for two weeks at the school and this infringed on their constitutional and human rights.

They also accused the SGB of failing to tell them that the caterer did not have halaal certification and of wanting to “undermine and disrespect” the teachings of Islam.

The parents have threatened to launch an application to have Star Catering removed and barred from the school premises until it acquires halaal accreditation.

They said they wanted the Western Cape Department of Education and the SA Human Rights Commission to urgently look into the matter and would ask the Muslim Judicial Council and the Islamic Council of SA to intervene.

But some members of the SGB dismissed the outcry, saying the issue was being politicised and used as a religious ploy to deflect their efforts to enforce good governance at the school.

SGB chairperson James Ketelo said the halaal matter was being attended to, but it wouldn’t distract the body from taking legal steps to ensure financial accountability at the school.

“The tuck shop at the school is run by a Muslim person. When the (previous caterer’s) contract was terminated due to complaints of poor quality food, we had to get another.

“In compliance with BEE regulations, we saw it proper to get a caterer from the disadvantaged community.

“For the parents to say they won’t allow their children to eat food from a black hand is racist.”

Ketelo said their efforts to root out corruption at the school, which had unearthed that R22million had been “stolen” - according to a forensic report - had attracted “enemies” who questioned the role of the SGB.

He accused education officials of being part of a plot to derail their efforts. “We stabilised the school but found some reports of financial mismanagement and we took the necessary steps to deal with it. Now the officials have threatened to dissolve the SGB. We will go to court if we have to.”

Deputy chairperson of the SGB, Samuel Arries said the body had tried to make the school as inclusive as possible and all parents were aware of the plan to appoint the Khayelitsha caterer. “This campaign about the certification is being driven by people who have ulterior motives.”

The school principal could not be reached for comment.

Weekend Argus