Pretoria - Judgment was reserved on Wednesday on an application to force Limpopo education authorities to deliver outstanding textbooks.
It was brought by community-based organisation Basic Education for All (Befa), in the High Court in Pretoria.
The education department admitted that hundreds of thousands of textbooks were only ordered in April this year because of budgetary constraints.
It said it was still awaiting the delivery of 158,000 textbooks from publishers to their central warehouse.
Befa, supported by civil rights group Section27, applied for a court order to force the department to keep to its deadline of June 6 for the delivery of all outstanding textbooks.
They also want to force the department to come up with a plan to prevent the future non-delivery of textbooks, for the Human Rights Commission to oversee the process, and for the court to declare the non-delivery of textbooks a violation of the constitutional right of pupils to basic education.
Judge Neil Tuchten made it clear that he regarded the non-delivery of a single textbook to a single pupil as a violation of rights, but said the question was who was to blame for it.
Chris Erasmus, SC, for the department, on Wednesday argued that only about 2.2 percent of the seven million textbooks needed by the province had not been delivered because the schools reported shortages late or failed to report it at all.
He said the reason why so-called top-up books were not ordered in time was due to budgetary constraints, as the province had a R293 million shortfall in its education budget.
“The non-retrieval of books last year is a big part of the problem,” he said.
“Almost 60 percent of the shortage relating to Caps books was the result of schools not retrieving it at the end of the year. That's wasteful expenditure by the schools.”
Erasmus said it was the department's case that it was not legally liable for the shortcomings because the schools were to blame.