Intervention needed in EC education department

Parliament wants Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s intervention team to resume its administration duties in the Eastern Cape education department, where it was forced by “general hostility” to abandon the drive.

The Mail & Guardian has learnt that the select committee on education and recreation will spearhead efforts to have the team return to the province to carry out its duties in line with constitutional edicts of section 100 (1) (b), invoked early last year. The committee says it is necessary for the officials appointed by Motshekga to “take over” administration of the provincial department.

“Constitutionally, the national department has to take over administration of the provincial department,” the National Council of Provinces’ Eastern Cape representative, Zukiswa Rantho, told the M&G this week.
Rantho, an ANC MP, is a member of the select committee.

She told the committee last week that “the minister has been chased away from Eastern Cape — her team is no longer part of the intervention”.

Structures in the province will apparently accept only President Jacob Zuma’s task team, comprising five provincial MECs and five national ministers.

Rantho told the M&G that the education minister’s team was rejected because of fears that provincial public servants would lose their jobs.

“They do not understand what the intervention is about. They think people will be taken out of offices,” she said. “The same is happening in Limpopo. People tend to resist it.”

The intervention did not extend to investigating officials but to sorting out administrative and financial problems, Rantho said.

Meetings facilitated by the minister were tense and “because of that misunderstanding, the minister decided to withdraw” her team.

Zuma and the province maintain that the education department is now recovering, but Rantho said national intervention must still be implemented.

“The [minister’s] intervention should carry on until the situation is stable and everyone is confident of the department’s administration and finances,” she said.

The select committee on education and recreation will visit the Eastern Cape next month. Part of its mandate will be to negotiate the return of national education department administrators, the M&G has learnt.

Although the provincial education department had “made significant progress” in reinstating scholar transport and school nutrition services, Zukiswa Kota, an education researcher at the Public Service Accountability Monitor, said these were still not reaching every pupil.

“There are scholars who are still not able to get to school because of problems with transport in their areas. Late delivery of meals in schools is also the main challenge,” said Kota.

A preliminary report compiled by members of the provincial legislature reveals various problems hampering education in the Chris Hani district, the seat of which is Cradock. Legislature members visited schools throughout the province in the second week of January.

Zwelixolile, Gobinamba, Mtirara, Lavelilanga, Sovuka Sikhanye and eChibini secondary schools in the Chris Hani district still either had no scholar transport or had transport that did not ferry all qualifying scholars. Some scholars at Zwelixolile “have to walk long distances [and] there is a river crossing leading to the school with no bridge”, according to the report. “It is a dangerous crossing that has led to deaths of scholars.”

The M&G understands that the national education department has requested that the provincial education department create a “conducive environment” for its officials when they resume their duties.

But the structures that opposed Motshekga’s intervention last year appear ready to oppose it again. The provincial Young Communist League is one of the groups that vocally opposed the intervention, labelling the leading administrator, Mathanzima Mweli, as the “self-proclaimed accounting officer” of the provincial department.

The league’s secretary, Mluleki Dlelanga, who is also employed as a parliamentary liaison officer by the Eastern Cape education department, said it remained opposed to a Motshekga-led intervention. He said it “would take us two steps back to a situation where there is confusion about who is superintendent general of the education department” and that the league would not “allow anyone that will destabilise the current [Zuma’s] intervention here”.

Bongani Nkosi

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