Education scandal deepensThursday, 12/07/2012 - 09:46
When you are in a hole, the sensible thing to do is to stop digging. But when it comes to the delivery of textbooks to schools and the rot in the country’s education departments, it seems the corruption just keeps getting deeper. Read the updated textbook saga timeline here and the full cast of characters here.
In the latest media reports, problems have been highlighted in Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, while more instances of dumping of workbooks have been uncovered. Whistleblower Solly Tshitangano brought the dodgy Limpopo tender to light two years ago, while Corruption Watch has unpacked the whole sorry scandal.
Yesterday, a Limpopo Education Department clerk was released on bail after appeared in the Giyani Magistrate’s Court in connection with the dumping of school textbooks. Glen Kubayi, 44, was released on R2 000 bail and the matter was postponed to August 3. He is charged with malicious damage to property after textbooks for mathematics Grade 8 and numeracy in Sepedi, Grade 3, were found dumped in Giyani last week.
In addition, the DA has laid a charge against the department for vandalism and destruction of books in Seshego. Another charge was brought against a service provider who allegedly dumped textbooks in Giyani.
Then, on Tuesday, Media24 reported that the DA had discovered another textbook dumping site in Limpopo. Provincial spokesperson Desiree van der Walt said the books were found next to a bridge in Tzaneen, on Friday, 6 July. The party had opened a case of vandalism against state property with Tzaneen police.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, City Press reported on claims by former Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee, who worked as a security consultant for EduSolutions, the company behind the Limpopo textbook saga, that:
He saw books being hidden instead of being sent to schools;
He personally introduced EduSolutions founder Shaun Battlemann to President Jacob Zuma;
Battlemann’s business relationship with a former education department director guaranteed lucrative government contracts; and,
EduSolutions had powerful influence over education officials in various provinces.
EduSolutions has contracts to purchase and deliver textbooks to schools in Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. “Three other EduSolutions sources confirm that the delivery systems were a mess and that government was routinely provided with false reports of 100% delivery,” reported the paper.
Zuma announced a high-level task team last week to find out who was responsible for the delay in delivering books, and recommend steps to be taken.
Also on Sunday, the Sunday Times reported a new textbook shock for Limpopo. A circular, issued by Mzwandile Matthews, part of the intervention team deployed by the national government, on June 29, suggested schools would not get all the textbooks they had ordered. The paper reported that Matthews said the previous arrangement whereby schools could place orders for books was changed because the department was in “dire financial straits”.
It quoted the principal of an Afrikaans-medium school in Polokwane as saying on Saturday, 7 July, that the school had only received 67 percent of its order. “The school has not received a single textbook for five subjects and we received maths literacy books in English.”
A task team appointed by the Department of Basic Education and headed by former Gauteng education MEC Mary Metcalfe will audit the delivery of textbooks at 10 percent of schools and is expected to present a draft report by tomorrow.
Trouble spreads to other provinces
But Limpopo is not the only province with problems. In a report dated 25 June, the SABC website said some school principals in KwaZulu-Natal had also complained that they had no books six months into the academic year. Others said they had received the wrong textbooks.
National Teachers Union spokesperson Allan Thompson was quoted as saying the provincial education department was also not innocent when it came to the proper distribution of textbooks. But the South African Democratic Teachers Union spokesperson Mbuyiseni Mathonsi dismissed its rival’s claims.
And in Eastern Cape, it was reported on Media24’s website on Monday, 9 July, several thousand school workbooks were returned to the provincial education department because they were in the wrong language, according to the DA. “The DA witnessed hundreds of boxes of books being returned to the warehouse because schools had received the wrong language for their learners,” Democratic Alliance MPL Edmund van Vuuren was quoted as saying. “This is due to the education department’s botching of orders for workbooks for Eastern Cape children for the third and fourth quarter of the year, starting on 16 July.”
In several cases, Xhosa pupils had been ordered Sesotho workbooks, while Afrikaans and English speaking learners had received Xhosa workbooks.
Eastern Cape education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani referred questions to national spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi, who said the national department ordered books based on numbers given to it by the province.
On Friday, 6 July, Times Live reported that three schools in Cape Town were also without books, according to Western Cape ANC provincial chairman Marius Fransman, who visited Wallacedene Primary near Kraaifontein. An education department official monitored the visit by the ANC and teachers’ union Sadtu to the three schools, and acknowledged the non-delivery of books.
Heinie Brand, the director of the department’s metro north region, blamed the shortage on the printer, while Bloekombos Primary principal Thula Batyi said his school had been allocated R384 000 for textbooks after placing an order in August last year, but was yet to receive anything.
In response, the provincial education spokesman Bronagh Casey said the ANC was misleading the public. The schools had received textbooks worth more than R1.2-million, Casey said, the news site reported.
At the time of publishing, it had also been reported by Independent Online on 9 July that the DA said it had received information that EduSolutions was also awarded a multimillion-rand tender in Mpumalanga to supply and distribute pupil teacher supply materials, including textbooks, under questionable circumstances.
DA Mpumalanga leader Anthony Benadie was quoted as saying: “According to our information, it is clear that the supply chain division in the Mpumalanga Education Department received and captured an EduSolutions tender document nearly a month before the bid committee awarded the contract.
“Furthermore, the DA has reliably been informed that, according to the agreement between the education department and EduSolutions, this company makes its money from being paid a percentage of the funds ‘saved’ by the department, arising from discounts afforded to them by suppliers.”
He alleged that the department’s chief financial officer had unilaterally decided that 60 percent of all discounts provided by book suppliers would go to EduSolutions. The DA planned to submit formal parliamentary questions to Mpumalanga Education MEC Regina Mhaule about the contract.
Mpumalanga education department spokesman Jasper Zwane said he was in not in a position to comment and could look into the matter only on Monday.
But back to Limpopo
In its weekend article, City Press reported that while working for EduSolutions as a security consultant, Dirk Coetzee introduced Shaun Battlemann to the president at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France. Zuma “handled” Coetzee, once the apartheid death squad boss and later an ANC member, after he left the country and changed sides.
Coetzee said Battlemann got to know Zuma “much better” and flew in his helicopter to the president’s rural estate at Nkandla. Battlemann “champions” the Jacob Zuma Education RDP Trust.
In reply to this article, Media24 on Monday reported the Presidency’s view that attempts to link EduSolutions to Zuma’s RDP Education Trust, were baseless and unfortunate. “Many companies donate to charitable organisations in South Africa, including the president's education trust," spokesperson Mac Maharaj was quoted as saying. “Donors do not have any preferential treatment with regards to government tenders or any other state business.” Neither were they exempt from being investigated if the need arose. “They are treated like any other company by government departments.”
City Press had reported on Sunday that Coetzee met Battlemann through the education department’s Salama Hendricks, who had worked with him. Hendricks, it said, was linked to another big education controversy, as co-founder of Lebone Group Holdings.
Last year, reports said Lebone’s sister firm, Lebone Litho Printers, won school workbook tenders worth R250m. The printers claimed to have no link with Hendricks, but the national Education Department director-general Bobby Soobrayan was at the time engaged to be married to Hendricks’ daughter. According to Coetzee, Hendricks was director of Early Childhood Development and Schools, which she left to work with Battlemann. She was a director of Edu-Logistical Solutions. “She was central in helping Battlemann to get textbook contracts. She has very high contacts in government,” Coetzee was quoted as saying.
In response, EduSolutions confirmed that Coetzee had been employed by the company and that he introduced Battlemann to Zuma in 2007, but it denied any impropriety. Ian Small-Smith, a lawyer for EduSolutions, also confirmed Salama Hendricks was an “ex-employee”, but offered no details.
It also reported that a Department of Basic Education spokesperson said that EduSolutions was appointed in Gauteng when Angie Motshekga was MEC for Social Development.
Soobrayan denied any improper relationship with Hendricks, but confirmed he had been in a relationship with her daughter, Fatima, which he says he ended in April last year. He said he became aware of her former employment at EduSolutions only after starting his relationship with her daughter. “I’m not aware of whether she may have assisted EduSolutions to obtain tenders,” City Press quoted him. He added this had occurred before he became director-general.
Keith Michael, an owner of Lebone Group and Lebone Litho Printers, stated: “[Hendricks] is not involved with EduSolutions; she’s involved with Lebone and Lebone Group Holdings, not Lebone Litho Printers.”
The Mail & Guardian’s amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism reported on 6 July that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was investigating 22 Limpopo Education Department officials, some of them very senior, over alleged irregularities in textbook and other educational tenders worth hundreds of millions of rands.
A confidential SIU report leaked to the paper showed that it was also interested in the award of a R95-million management contract to multinational project management company Aurecon for 40 “purported fast-track” educational projects, when the lowest bid was R26.6-million. A well-placed source estimated the value of the projects, including the construction of classrooms and schools, at between R800-million and R1.6-billion.
M&G said the report alleged that a senior official may have violated the Public Finance Management Act by awarding the R95-million contract to Aurecon and its Limpopo joint venture partners, Tubatse Consulting and MOT Professional Service Consultancy, despite their bid being R45-million higher than that of their nearest competitor.
The SIU alleged that the official “misrepresented, via comparative analysis … that Aurecon JV was ranked number one in terms of price”.
Compiled from reports from Sapa, Media24, M&G, City Press, SABC and IOL