HEROES & ZEROES
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” South Africa’s first democratically elected president and living icon Nelson Mandela said.
But recently Mandela’s words have sounded increasingly hollow as the Department of Basic Education, under the leadership of Minister Angie Motshekga, has come under fire yet again.
This time it’s for squandering taxpayers’ money on placing a defensive advert in weekend newspapers to gloat about a recent court ruling – instead of ensuring all outstanding textbooks were delivered to Limpopo schools.
Rights group Section27 and the department have been locked in a court battle over the non-delivery of textbooks since May. However, at the time of publishing this article late on Friday 19 October, the department had filed an affidavit with the North Gauteng High Court stating it had delivered all outstanding material to Limpopo schools.
But getting back to the newspaper advert:
According to the department’s statement in the ad, “the court did not attribute fault to the department for the incomplete nature of the delivery of books to Limpopo”. So it seems, for Motshekga and her team, this was the most important message to be told. And what an extravagant way to do it!
“Section27 had hoped that the North Gauteng Court would grant an order against the [basic education] department and the Limpopo department of education for failing to comply with the two previous court orders,” reads the statement in the advert.
Motshekga’s spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi conceded that the placing of the ad was an “unfortunate route, but what else could we do,” he told the Times newspaper. Ironically, the department said the actions of Section27 were unnecessary and a waste of valuable time and resources.
Corruption Watch gives Minister Angie Motshekga the title of Zero of the Week for taking so much care in making sure her department’s voice is not “drowned out” – when the real focus should have been listening to the voices of the remainder of Limpopo pupils who were still without books at the time of the advert being placed.
As a senior Cabinet minister, Motshekga is now accountable to taxpayers who footed the bill for this.
To our week’s zero, it would be worth noting that chapter two of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, states that everyone has the right to basic education, including adult basic education; and that Minister Motshekga, includes many rural Limpopo pupils who went for most of the year without books.
The Department of Basic Education recently spent thousands in taxpayers’ money placing an advert in the weekend newspapers to defend its handling of the Limpopo textbook crisis – a shocking revelation and unjustifiable expense considering that there were still pupils without books in the province at that stage.