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Johannesburg - The Department of Basic Education has ignored a court order to pay Eastern Cape temporary teachers their salaries.
It now owes more than 1 000 of them R596 million in unpaid salaries.
In a written reply to DA National Council of Provinces member Jacobs de Villiers, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga confirmed that her department owed temporary teachers millions of rand.
She said the Eastern Cape had a total of 1 450 temporary teachers.
Motshekga said 233 of the teachers appointed from January were owed R258.5m. At least 1 217 appointed from April were owed R337.5m in outstanding salaries.
Motshekga said her department had set up a special task team to help expedite the payment of the salaries.
The department’s failure to pay the teachers came despite the Eastern Cape High Court in Grahamstown earlier this month ordering it to pay 27 teachers within five days.
The Legal Resources Centre (LRC), which represented the teachers, confirmed they had not received their pay cheques.
“Unfortunately, there are still numerous teachers who have not been paid the salaries owed to them, and the LRC is seeking systemic relief to deal with this problem.
“The latest court order is one of the many efforts by the LRC to address the widespread problem of non-payment of teachers throughout the Eastern Cape,” said the centre.
It said its latest court order regarding the 27 teachers was issued after an agreement between itself and the department.
In terms of the order, the teachers will return to court to seek alternative relief if they do not receive payment within seven days.
Motshekga’s spokesman, Panyaza Lesufi, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The non-payment of salaries is the latest in a series of squabbles and legal challenges between Motshekga’s department and pressure groups or legal entities that fight for pupils’ right to quality education.
Last month, Motshekga and pressure group Equal Education reached an out-of-court-settlement following their dispute over schools’ norms and standards.
The settlement, made a court order, compelled the Education Department to publish minimum uniform norms and standards for school infrastructure for comments by September 12.
Last year, the minister locked horns with the NGO Section27 over her department’s failure to deliver textbooks to Limpopo. The department was later ordered by the high court to deliver textbooks to the province by June 27.
On Wednesday, The Star reported that Motshekga’s plans to have competency tests for matric exam markers this year were scrapped after unions objected.
The tests are aimed at rooting out inept exam markers by disqualifying teachers who score below 60 percent.