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Cape Town - The Department of Basic Education (DBE) on Thursday condemned the intimidation of officials probing the 2014 matric group exam copying scandal.

“Violence will not solve the problems of those implicated but will only serve to worsen the situation,” the department said in a statement after several instances of violence in KwaZulu Natal where disciplinary hearings were taking place.

Pupils in this province had engaged in violent behaviour in at least three centres where the hearings had taken place. Criminal cases had been opened with law enforcement authorities for malicious damage to property. Pupils who had damaged cars and property would be punished, the department said.

As a result of the violence, the DBE had to move some of the hearings to more secure locations to prevent intimidation of its officials.

Despite the violence, the department said good progress was being made in the investigation.

“Progress has been made by the department of basic education (DBE) in the on-going investigations of group copying in both KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape which has yielded desirable results thus far,” the statement said.

“The hearings have been completed in 50 percent of the implicated centres in the Eastern Cape and are currently underway in KwaZulu-Natal. The hearings are expected to be finalised by the end of this month where a report will be published on the findings and decisions will be made on those implicated.”

The examination regulations provisions state that anybody found guilty of cheating in the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations may be excluded from writing the tests for up to three years.

The DBE said although it intended the sanctions imposed on pupils found guilty of cheating to be a lesson for all involved, and also a strong deterrent for would-be cheaters, it would treat each case on its merits.

However principals, teachers, and invigilators who are implicated will face full disciplinary action as they are entrusted with setting positive examples.

Despite some resistance, the DBE expressed appreciation to the larger numbers of pupil and their parents who are cooperating with them to ensure the hearings continue in a “non-intimidating environment”.

The department received confessions from a number of pupils who had indicated they were assisted by adults invigilating, or by their teachers and principals. The department said honesty from pupils would be considered as a “positive mitigating factor”, and had encouraged all pupils to who wish to confess to do so.

ANA