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From leaks to outrage & ruling – here’s everything you need to know about the matric exam rewrite saga

The Pretoria high court on Friday ruled against basic education minister Angie Motshekga’s decision to compel matric pupils to rewrite their maths and physics exams second papers after both papers were leaked last month.

Announcing the decision‚ Motshekga said this would be done to preserve the integrity of the examinations.

Pupils‚ unions and lobby group AfriForum opposed the decision and took the department to court.

Here’s everything you need to know:

When were the papers leaked?

The maths paper 2 was leaked on November 16 and the physics paper 2 on November 23. The maths paper was leaked two hours before the exam. Preliminary investigations indicated pupils in Limpopo and Gauteng received the exam.

A tutor raised the alarm about the leak of the science paper after it was sent to him by a female pupil.

The department roped in the Hawks to investigate the origins and extent of the leak of the maths paper‚ and had said the investigations was in its advanced stages.

Was anyone arrested?

An employee of a Johannesburg printing company‚ Themba Daniel Shikwambana‚ was arrested in connection with the maths paper leak.

The Hawks said the company had been contracted by the department to print the exam papers.

Shikwambana is out on bail and will appear at the Johannesburg magistrate’s court in January 2021.

Why the rewrite?

Motshekga announced earlier this month that matric pupils across SA would rewrite the leaked papers to restore confidence in the examinations. She said the decision was made after quality assurance agency Umalusi had warned the department that the integrity and credibility of the two leaked question papers had been irrevocably compromised because the full extent of their spread could not be determined.

“We want to apologise to our pupils who had not had access to the paper. For me as a minister‚ if Umalusi says it won’t recognise the results‚ for me it closes the matter. We can’t risk as a sector any situation where Umalusi disowns the results‚” said Motshekga.
Why unions and organisations challenged the rewrite

The high court heard separate challenges from AfriForum‚ the SA Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) and independent schools who opposed the rewrites.

Advocate Wisani Sibuyi‚ who represented the union‚ said the department had been “swayed” by Umalusi to agree to a rewrite. Sibuyi said the director-general and education minister should determine the course of action in case of examination leaks‚ and not the agency.

He also criticised the department for its inconsistency around rewriting examinations‚ saying the same decision was not made in 2016.

AfriForum’s senior counsel‚ Quintus Pelser‚ said the rewrites should have been the last resort. He said the department should have audited the distribution chain or sourced the services of private investigators who could have established the origins and extent of the leaks.

Court rules against rewrite‚ but the department wants to challenge the decision

The court ruled the decision to rewrite the exams was irregular and unlawful.

Judge Norman Davis ruled that the papers of pupils who were not linked to the exam leaks should be marked regardless of Umalusi’s stance.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department would challenge some aspects of the judgment. He said it did not really address the “crux of the matter which is the credibility‚ fairness and integrity of the examination”.

Source: ARENA Holdings.