Angie reads riot act
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her top officials read the riot act to the managers responsible for Limpopo's textbook scandal.
Amid mounting calls for her axing and that of Limpopo education MEC Dickson Masemola, The Times has established that Motshekga and her team of education experts travelled to Limpopo to "enforce a turnaround strategy" that might include Masemola being redeployed.
While his department was battling last month to explain the non-delivery of textbooks to hundreds of schools in the province halfway through the school year, batches of books were discovered dumped next to the Giyani River, while others were shredded near Seshego.
This was after the department had failed to heed a court order to deliver overdue textbooks to scores of Limpopo schools by June 27.
While no details of yesterday's meeting were released, The Times has established that Motshekga demanded detailed reports from Limpopo officials on how ''catch-up plans'' would be rolled out to help pupils affected by the late delivery of textbooks.
The meeting, which lasted several hours, also dealt with the acquisition of textbooks for next year.
Motshekga's team will wrap up its visit today.
Her spokesman, Hope Mokgatle, said she would not be giving interviews before then.
Motshekga's intervention comes a week after former higher education director-general Mary Metcalfe released a damning report on the provincial education crisis and called for Masemola to be fired.
The ANC Youth League in the province echoed Metcalfe's call at the weekend.
The league, which also wants Motshekga fired, has accused Masemola of creating the textbook crisis by failing to use the education budget when it became apparent there was a problem.
Masemola, who is also the ANC's provincial deputy chairman, said he was not responsible for the textbook crisis, and that his department had been hamstrung after the central government placed it under administration in December.
Those privy to the discussions yesterday said Motshekga had demanded details of steps the province would take to make sure books are delivered on time come next year.
''For the first time the minister cracked the whip. She wanted definite answers and a programme of action. Politics took a back seat and the problem we are facing was put on the table and discussed openly," said a senior official.
He said Motshekga made it clear that President Jacob Zuma had demanded answers and wants the textbook crisis solved quickly.
However, more problems surfaced yesterday, with the department being blamed for delivering the wrong books to schools.
A school for the blind in Thokgwaneng village near Lebowakgomo received books for sighted pupils.
The SA Democratic Teachers' Union, which was not present at yesterday's meeting, said it was worried about the ''general collapse of education in the province'' and that it would take an inclusive approach to solve it.
The union's provincial secretary, Matome Raphasha, said Motshekga's visit made no sense .
''We cannot be excluded as our members are the ones who must drive the programme. Time is not on our side and we hope that she will meet with us."
The union will meet Masemo la tomorrow and a catch-up plan to assist affected pupils is expected to be discussed.
Raphasha said it would support ''whatever plan'' as long as teachers were compensated.
Motshekga has for seven months failed to act decisively on the crisis, and yesterday's stern approach follows Zuma's warning two months ago that those responsible would be "held accountable".
Zuma defended Motshekga on Monday , saying there was no need to fire her - despite thousands of pupils in Limpopo having been deprived of education material for months.
In a radio interview, Zuma said: "Well, I'm not sure about that criticism and I'm sure if, each day there was a report and I fired people, I would be [harshly] criticised that I don't follow processes of the law."
Zuma said he could not just fire Motshekga as she sits in an office in Pretoria. He first had to establish who was responsible for the problem in Limpopo before heads could roll.
Metcalfe's report recommended key reforms the province needed to implement urgently to avoid a repetition of this year's debacle, and called for Limpopo's education department to be micro-managed by the national department.
A special ministerial task team, set up by Zuma, is also investigating the non-delivery and destruction of learning materials.
The Limpopo government is conducting its own investigation.
Announcing the presidential task team at the beginning of this month, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said: "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."
The team, headed by Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, is still investigating.
The textbook saga - which Justice Minister Jeff Radebe described as a national "shame" - has seen thousands of books, including a biography of former president Nelson Mandela and William Shakespeare's Macbeth, being destroyed.
The Limpopo education department was one of five provincial departments placed under national administration in December. - Additional reporting by Frank Maponya