/ 5 November 2012

DA collects letters to Zuma about Limpopo schools

DA leader Helen Zille.
DA leader Helen Zille.

The Democratic Alliance has collected more than 600 letters from Limpopo pupils telling President Jacob Zuma why he should prioritise fixing schools in government spending.

Some said teachers, desks, and running water were more important right now than building houses for the president's wives.

"I would like to tell you that we need a school bus and sports field at our school but what our country has turned into is not good because you are making our parents pay more tax to build houses for your wives," Dimpho, a 13-year-old pupil from Tzaneen wrote.

The DA had planned to deliver the letters to Zuma’s controversial Nkandla residence, which has allegedly been renovated using R248-million of state funds. A DA delegation,  including leader Helen Zille and Limpopo leader Jacques Smalle, who attempted to inspect the residence on Sunday, was, however, disrupted by ANC supporters.

Smalle told the Mail & Guardian that the presidency had confirmed that it was "willing" to accept the letters at Zuma's Tuynhuys residence in Cape Town.

"We want to do an official handover of the letters to the president himself … we will try to arrange for this to happen before the end of the week," he said.

The DA began gathering letters from Limpopo pupils at about 20 schools in the Mopane district in June this year to "try to understand what the impact of the issue around [the lack] of textbooks was".

"We asked them 'if you could say something to the president, what would you say?'" said Smalle.

About 90% of the letters were about insufficient school resources such as classrooms, textbooks and sport facilities.

Tshikane Maringe said: "I want Mr President to bring textbooks so that I can read."

Mokgadi Modibe in grade seven said there were not enough classrooms at her school.

" … and we are about 75 in our classrooms and there are lack of textbooks and when we have to learn we struggle."

In light of the government spending at Nkandla, Smalle said South Africa needed to ask itself if the government was "really serious about taking people out of poverty and giving them a better future".

"The government has to give children the tools to better their lives … At the moment that's not happening," he said.

It was "scary" that the government was not "prioritising making schools better".

Presidency spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, referred the M&G to a statement he made on Saturday in which he said the DA was "welcome to deliver any communication to the presidency at his offices …"

On hearing that the DA had informed the media that it had planned to visit Nkandla, he said: "In this instance, regrettably the presidency is left with the impression that the DA's conduct smacks of a disingenuous publicity gimmick."

"We reiterate that the DA should deliver any communication they wish to send to the president's offices and not his residence, otherwise their motives remain highly questionable and mischievous," it said.