Motshekga gets an 'F' after textbook saga
The ANC has turned against Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, with members of its powerful national executive committee slamming her poor handling of the Limpopo textbooks saga and some calling for her sacking.
Yesterday, senior members of the NEC, meeting behind closed doors in Irene, near Pretoria, tore into her failure to deal with the crisis. This came as the party's national working committee (NWC) suggested she was incapable of resolving the crisis.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe set the tone on the first day of the party's four-day NEC lekgotla when he called for a frank discussion about the nondelivery of textbooks - warning that the party could not afford "to be found wanting in dealing with crisis points in society".
The Limpopo crisis dominated the meeting, with the general mood being that Motshekga had failed in an area identified as the number one priority for President Jacob Zuma's government.
This places Zuma in a difficult position as he may feel compelled to act against a potential ally - who is also the president of the influential ANC Women's League - just months before the ANC's Mangaung national conference where the president hopes to be re-elected.
In his opening remarks at the meeting, Zuma is said to have been lenient with Motshekga, saying the crisis could not be blamed on an individual and that the party needed a holistic response to it.
But this did not stop NEC members from calling for her sacking, with Gauteng provincial secretary David Makhura telling an NEC commission on governance that the textbook crisis exposed a "complete failure" of leadership in the Department of Basic Education.
Motshekga came under more fire in commissions at the lekgotla and theNWC suggested that she was incapable of resolving the crisis.
Delivering an NWC report at the start of the NEC meeting, Mantashe warned that the textbooks saga was affecting the ANC government's image.
"The NEC is expected to debate and resolve the Limpopo books debacle. The crisis in Limpopo raises serious questions about the capacity and orientation of the national department's intervention in other spheres of government. On the same matter of national intervention in provinces, it is vital that the NEC discusses progress or lack thereof in the intervention in the Eastern Cape education crisis," he said.
"We cannot be found wanting in dealing with crisis points in society," said Mantashe.
Motshekga, who was one of only two ministers asked to present progress reports to the meeting, attempted to shift the blame to companies contracted to deliver books. She is, however, said to have admitted that it had been a mistake to hire a company which did not have the capacity to deliver the books.
Participants of the meeting said that Motshekga's progress report painted an even more dire picture of the crisis in public education.
The minister also rubbished a damning report by University of the Witwatersrand Professor Mary Metcalfe, saying it was "inaccurate". Metcalfe led one of three government-initiated task teams to investigate the non-delivery of school books in Limpopo. Although she appointed Metcalfe, Motshekga was clearly not happy with her final report, which found that the department had misled the nation when it claimed that 98% of books had been delivered to schools by the end of June.
One NEC member told the Sunday Times: "She said Metcalfe's conclusions were not correct ... because schools had been closed in Limpopo and she doesn't understand how Metcalfe came to that conclusion. She said the sample used by Metcalfe was not a fair reflection of the situation."
The NEC member predicted that Zuma would have to move Motshekga to another department in a reshuffle necessitated by the recent election of Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as African Union Commission chairwoman.
"It's clear that she must go ... but I don't think JZ will drop her from the cabinet because she is the women's league president. After she spoke, there was consensus among comrades that she had failed.
"Makhura was frank in one of the commissions. He said Angie is just making excuses ... the textbook debacle shows a complete failure of leadership in dealing with the issue," said the NEC member.
Another NEC member who attended the meeting said: "The reports were clear ... she must go. Everybody here feels that she must leave. Even Zuma supporters are finding it very difficult to defend her."
Among those who openly laid into Motshekga were ANC Youth League acting secretary-general Kenetswe Mosenogi, who told one commission yesterday that the minister must resign. Apparently Mosenogi said Motshekga was undermining the ANC government's commitment to education.
"She said the minister must do a noble thing and resign [as] she did not hold anyone accountable and did not take responsibility for the crisis. She said Angie must apologise to the nation," according to another ANC leader.
The lekgotla ends today.