Ms. Mandizvidza (“Respondent”) was a student at the Morgenster Teacher Training College (“Appellant”). Appellant is a private institution run by the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe. Upon enrollment at the college, Respondent signed a contract stipulating that students who become pregnant or cause another student’s pregnancy must withdraw from the college. In December 1998, Respondent was married in accordance with customary law and tradition. She subsequently became pregnant. On July 9, 1999, during Respondent’s ﬁnal year of study, the college asked Respondent to withdraw from the college in accordance with the signed contract.
Respondent filed a complaint against Appellant with the Minister of State in the President’s ofﬁce. Appellant defended that the decision was justiﬁed on the following grounds: (1) the maintenance of moral standards, (2) contractual obligations that Respondent had signed, and (3) Respondent had not been expelled from the college, but withdrew voluntarily.
Respondent requested the lower court for interim relief to sit for her ﬁnal examinations. The lower court granted this relief on the basis that Clause 7(a) of the college contract violated Section 23 of the Constitution. Consequently, the lower court denied Appellant’s request for withdrawal as null and void. The lower court held that Respondent should be allowed to pursue her training.
Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that Section 23 of the Constitution, which prohibits gender-based discrimination, does not apply to a private contract. Appellant argued that the case should instead be governed by contract law.
The Court examined the following issues: (1) whether the college is a “public authority” under the meaning of Section 23 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and (2) whether Clause 7(a) of the contract unconstitutional.
The Court determined that the term “public authority” is not deﬁned under Section 23 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The word “public” is deﬁned elsewhere in the Constitution as relating to the state. “Public authority” therefore refers to an authority related to the state. Given that Appellant operates for the beneﬁt of the public, and not for private proﬁt, the Court held that Appellant properly falls within the deﬁnition of “public authority.”
The Court held that a clause in a student-college contractual agreement that requires women to withdraw from the college if they become pregnant is contrary to public policy and the Constitution. The Court also held that even if the college is not a “public authority” falling within the meaning of Section 23 of the Constitution, the expulsion of female students who become pregnant while attending the college constitutes gender-based discrimination, and is thus contrary to public policy. The clause of the college contract is thus null and void. In this case, the Court found that Respondent’s withdrawal was not voluntary but coerced.