Angie Motshekga’s department wants the opposition party to retract its statements that claimed textbooks had not reached some schools a month since they reopened.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has until Friday to "apologise to South Africans for misleading them" or risk being reported to Parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education, said Panyaza Lesufi, the department’s spokesperson.
Furthermore, the department is investigating the principal of Duiwelskloof Primary, Hennie Greyling, for allegedly giving parents “misleading” information that the school had not received all textbooks.
The department gave journalists documents it said was evidence it delivered all books to the school. "We've given [the media] tangible proof that the DA has misled South Africans. They have until Friday to retract their statement," said a visibly irate Lesufi.
"Indeed the clock is ticking. We hope by Friday they’ll give us the statement. The [party] must apologise to South Africans."
The DA was making “serious allegations”, Lesufi told the briefing. "We want to go to Parliament and report them. The school they’ve been quoting has received the books." Action will be taken against Greyling too. The department’s human resources unit is investigating him, said Lesufi. We warned him that he had “entered a dangerous terrain”.
The department is now waiting for “advice on appropriate action that needs to be taken, if action needs to taken”.
In a letter dated January 29 and written in Afrikaans, Greyling apologised to parents and pupils that the school had not received textbooks.
The letter, used by the DA last week as proof some schools in the province were still without textbooks, said Duiwelskloof Primary had only received books for Science, English and Life Skills.
In its statement last week, the party said "schools in the Modjajieskloof area and elsewhere in Limpopo have not received a single textbook for core subjects two months into the school year".
In another statement, Jacques Smalle, the party’s provincial leader, challenged the Limpopo education department to prove that textbooks have been delivered to all schools in the province. But the party just wants political clout, Lesufi claimed. “We feel someone is taking advantage of the situation in Limpopo and wants to score political points."
Lesufi told the briefing that all public schools in Limpopo have received textbooks they ordered. “There’s no single school in Limpopo that has not received a book. Let me emphasise, there’s no single school in Limpopo that has not received a book.”
But it is not only the DA that has claimed Limpopo schools are still facing a shortage of textbooks. During an interview with the Mail & Guardian last week, Mugwena Maluleke, general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, said the union was aware of schools in Limpopo yet to receive their textbooks.
Many Limpopo learners doing grades one to three and 10, in which a new curriculum was introduced, went the most part of 2012 without textbooks.
The department is also wagging a threatening finger to other principals who go public about textbook delivery problems. “Those principals who choose to approach political parties instead of the department will be dealt with in terms of the internal disciplinary processes," the department said.
“The department will commence the process of taking action against school principals who deliberately use political parties to discredit the department by spreading lies and misinformation.”
Principals should rather report textbook shortages to the department’s call centre, said Mathanzima Mweli, a deputy director general for the curriculum.
“Last year when we experienced difficulties, the minister met with all principals. The understanding [she] reached [with them] was that they’d use the call centre. The call centre number was shared with all the principals. I’d have expected any principal to have first used the call centre,” Mweli told the briefing.