Arguments being made in the Gauteng High Court on Thursday so far have various applicants seeking to rebuke the Department of Basic Education’s call to rewrite maths paper two and physical science paper two.
Judge Norman Davis asked at the start of court proceedings who had made the decision to rewrite the exams. The court sought to ascertain whether quality assurance body Umalusi’s call that the integrity of the exams had been irrevocably compromised was substantiated.
Advocate Quintus Pelser representing AfriForum argued that Motshekga’s decision was at its core not hers, but Umalusi’s, when they “made up their mind” about an integrity breach. He said their decision had been made before meetings with the council of education ministers (CEM).
It was also said that an investigation started on 24 November found that there would not be enough time to complete it by the time Umalusi had to certify the results on 23 February.
Pelser said that within the department, the majority did not favour a rewrite, and argued that Umalusi had not provided a balanced view, but simply reiterated that the integrity of the exams had been compromised.
“The minister just latched onto it because she is afraid; a rubber stamp.”
There were other possibilities before a rewrite was decided on, the court heard, including interviewing and investigating the implicated pupils.
0.05% of the entire class of 2020 has been implicated in the leaks – 195 known students for the maths exam, who are said to be part of the top achievers WhatsApp group under the tutelage of Stellenbosch University, and 60 pupils for the physical science exam, or 0.02%. Four possible additions have since been added to the group of 195.
Pelser also said Motshekga did not care about the matriculants.
Exam moderators said a rewrite would add to the burden of this year, and that the psychological impacts of a rewrite would be severe. If would also take effort for candidates who have already discarded their notes and textbooks to get into the correct mindset to rewrite the papers, and that some may not even be able to do so, due to personal constraints such as poverty, advocate Thys Strydom, representing pupil Itha Wessels, said.
Strydom went on to declare that the country was bing held ransom due to Umalusi’s decision, adding it was not a rational one.
Advocate Johan Botha, also representing Wessels and other pupils, said that ultimately, the decision did not lie with Motshekga, but with the director-general of the department, Mathanzima Hubert Mweli, in conjunction with Umalusi and other relevant assessment bodies.
He said the decision was not made by Mweli, but by Motshekga, as per the minutes of a special CEM meeting held on 3 December.
This, he said, was “outside her competence”, adding there was no evidence that the director-general was consulted or considered to make a decision.
Following this, he called for Motshekga’s decision to be “set aside and rebuked. She may not make any decision at all, but she did”.
The case continues.