Harare High Court Judge Francis Bere has issued an interim decision allowing Herentals College to take over Cold Comfort School premises until a dispute over ownership of the historic school has been definitively resolved, raising concern among education advocates who say public and community schools must not be privatized.
The justice barred Release Power and Cold Comfort School authorities from interfering with Herentals, also telling them not to accept fees from students. But lawyers for the parents behind Cold Comfort School launched an appeal in the Supreme Court.
In a notice of appeal at the Supreme Court, community group Release Power maintained that it was the legitimate owner of the property, disputing Herentals' claim.
Release Power said that even if Herentals bought the land, it could not take over the school operations there. Herentals claims it bought the school buildings from Unitime Investments for $360,000, but says it has so far paid US$100,000.
The appeal states that the High Court "erred in essentially coming to the conclusion that there is no difference at law between a building and the business carried out therein."
The appeal maintained that the court erred in granting Herentals rights to the business - i.e. the school - carried on in the property it claimed to have purchased, though there is
The dispute has dragged for two weeks with the two parties fighting over ownership of the school premises. Herentals has enforced its claims by deploying what parents and teachers call "bouncers" to bar students and their parents from the property.
Cold Comfort Attorney Vote Muza told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that Justice Bere erred in finding for the wealthy private college against 750 children with no other school nearby to attend, calling the ruling unfair and harmful to the children.
Muza said Bere should have taken into account the heavy-handed manner in which Herentals took control of the school.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe President Takavafira Zhou said his union opposes the privatization of schools which he says has allowed market forces to determine who gets an education, a trend that he says is not acceptable.