Schäfer quits as Education MEC for London post

Debbie and Mark Schäfer

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer is bowing out of public life after serving in all three spheres of government for 20 years. She will be taking up a job in the legal sector in London in mid-May.

Ms Schäfer’s departure was announced on Thursday April 21. David Maynier will replace her when she leaves office on Monday May 15, according to a statement from Premier Alan Winde.

Ms Schäfer is married to Mark Schäfer, the chairman of the Bergvleit/Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association.

Mr Schäfer said they were not emigrating.

“We don’t know what the future holds and will be making decisions as circumstances permit. We don’t have the right to settle in the UK. Debbie is on a skilled-worker visa. I will continue to service my clients in the Lawmark legal practice in Bergvliet when I’m here and remotely when I’m with Debbie,” he said, adding that the pandemic had shown them they could conduct “business unusual”.

The couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in September and have twin daughters who completed high school in 2017.

Mr Schäfer said one of their daughters and her husband were also relocating to England. “He has received an offer from Amazon and will be working as a solutions architect.”

Their other daughter was completing a teaching degree and would be seeking a local teaching post next year, he said.

“The one is happy to have her mother accompany her on a move to the UK and the other sad that her mom won’t be around the corner. I’m fortunate to see both daughters regularly.”

Ms Schäfer was born in Pietermaritzburg, completed her primary school education in Johannesburg and matriculated from Bergvliet High School in 1984. She did a BA in English and psychology at UCT and received a law degree in 1990.

Ms Schäfer practised as an attorney of the Cape High Court for 12 years before starting her political career, in 2002, as the councillor for Ward 62, which included Wynberg and Constantia. In the 2006 elections, she was elected the councillor for Ward 73 and was then elected to the National Assembly in the 2009 general election.

In Parliament, Ms Schäfer served on the police and the justice and constitutional development portfolio committees. She was also appointed to the Magistrates Commission, elected as a whip and participated in the joint rules committee. She has been very involved in DA structures at local and national levels. She moved to the provincial legislature in 2014 and was appointed Education MEC under the previous premier, Helen Zille. She was reappointed to the same position by Premier Alan Winde.

Mr Winde praised Ms Schäfer for her service to the people of the Western Cape.

“I believe I have left the department in a better place than I found it and am proud of the work that we have, together, achieved,” said Ms Schäfer.

Mr Schäfer matriculated from Wynberg Boys’ High School in 1982 and obtained his BA 1985 and his LLB in 1987 at UCT. He founded his own law firm in 2009 and was elected as BMRA chairman in 2010.

“Mark is a very good, hard-working chairman in his service to the community, upholding and fighting to protect the interests, maintenance and standards for the area set by previous chairmen and committees since 1947,” said BMRA secretary Winnie Craythorne, speaking in her personal capacity.

Mr Schäfer said he would stand for re-election to the association’s executive committee at its annual general meeting in October.