Zuma sets up his own textbook probe

Pressure is building on the education department after it was announced this week that another two task teams were being sent to investigate the non-delivery of textbooks to the province – seven months into the academic year.

The presidency on Wednesday announced the formation of a ministerial task team to probe the debacle that saw thousands of books being destroyed while the province's students sat behind empty desks.

The basic education department, and the Limpopo government have also set up investigations into the textbook saga.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj told the Times newspaper that the team would investigate the causes of non-delivery of textbooks and make recommendations to ensure the chaos was not repeated.

"The decision to appoint the team was made after President Jacob Zuma met with Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga on Tuesday."

The presidency's task team will comprise the deputy ministers of finance, Nhlanhla Nene; basic education, Enver Surty; performance, monitoring and evaluation, Obed Bapela; co-operative governance and traditional affairs Yunus Carrim; and public service and administration, Ayanda Dlodlo.

Maharaj told the Times no deadline was given for the team to complete its work but that it would be conducted with "great urgency".

"The president has directed that all who are found to have played a role in delaying or stopping the delivery of books should be held accountable."

Missed deadlines
The establishment of the now three task teams has brought the spotlight firmly on Motshekga, who has so far missed several deadlines to have the learning materials delivered. The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) on Tuesday labelled the delays as "barbaric", calling on Zuma to investigate Motshekga's shortcomings in correcting the escalating debacle.

Rights organisation Section 27 and the education department had an agreement that schools in the province would have textbooks by Wednesday last week. This failed to materialise with a to-and-fro debate about the actual state of delivery.

Motshekga earlier this week ordered an investigation by former Gauteng education minister Mary Metcalfe, saying the delivery of materials would be independently verified.

This report is expected to be presented to the director general of basic education and Section 27 next Friday. It will be released to the public on July 24.

Shifting blame
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has heaped scorn on officials' handling of the scandal, warning that all investigations must be thorough and credible with consistent updates.

DA parliamentarian Annette Lovemore said the probe should be completed soon to ensure textbooks are delivered on time for the next academic year.

"The teams established to investigate the textbook crisis must identify the causes of the debacle and [this must] not be allowed to degenerate into an exercise of shifting blame to save political face," she said.

Lovemore said the teams' terms of reference should include a probe into the awarding of all education tenders in Limpopo, especially those granted to the companies EduSolutions and Lebone.

The DA last month questioned Motshekga's relationship with EduSolutions whom she has been working with since 2008 "despite a history of fraud and incompetence". – Additional reporting by Sapa

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