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Durban - The attachment of its fleet of 708 vehicles by creditors for about R34 million owed by it, is not giving KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education bosses sleepless nights.
The department said on Wednesday the matter would be resolved before the deadline – either by pursuing further legal action or paying the outstanding amounts.
The fleet, which will be auctioned off if the payments are not made by the end of the month, was attached by lawyers acting for two separate plaintiffs who had won multi-million rand lawsuits.
One successful litigant, Simphiwe Shange, 26, could not return to school as planned this year because the almost R4 million owed to him has not been paid, despite judgment being handed down in May last year.
Shange was awarded the damages after being partially blinded in his right eye when his school’s deputy principal hit him with a belt in 2003.
His attorney, Elana Hannington, said promises to pay had been made by the department but no money had been forthcoming.
“We received correspondence authorising the payment but then the department called for further investigation.
“You can’t question a court order, so I don’t know what they want to investigate,” Hannington said.
“My client should be in school but is not because he doesn’t have the funds to attend.
“It’s also costing the taxpayer in interest every month.”
In a separate court case, attorneys for the South African National Tutor Services (Sants), a private higher education institution, won a court application to have the more R30m owed in bursary fees, paid by the department.
KZN education head, Nkosinathi Sishi, told the Daily News on Wednesday his department would respect the court’s decisions, but was conducting investigations to ensure they were not wasting taxpayers’ money.
Regarding the bursary money, he said there had been some irregularities that needed to be looked into.
“Administration processes were not followed and we needed to establish that the institution was accredited (this has since been established) and whether students were actually attending classes,” he said.
Sishi said he had become concerned last year when processes were not followed.
“I started to investigate and it was established that irregularities had occurred when awarding the tender.”
Sants has denied that any tender process had been followed by the department.
Of the three department officials responsible, one had been suspended and the other two were being investigated, Sishi said.
He also said the contract had been re-advertised and the awarding of the tender would be done again.
however, students could choose if they would continue to study at Sants or go elsewhere.
“The legal team is looking into this and should present the report by the end of the week and we will take legal action if necessary.
“However, we will respect the court order.”
Jaco Bernard, Managing Director for Sants, told the Daily News on Thursday that there was no tender process advertised for the bursaries.
“There was never a tender advertised in 2012. The department recruited students to study (the Bachelor of Education) and invited them, in a circular, to enroll at Sants.”
He said Sants had made a presentation to the department, but there was no tender process.
Bernard said bursaries were offered at other institutions as well.
“Why didn’t they stop the processes at other institutions if there were irregularities?
Regarding accreditation of the institution, Bernard said this had been established by the department before the students were enrolled at Sants, as is the legal obligation.
“In the court order the department consents that the number of students is verified,” he said, questioning why the department would need to verify this again.
“If the department does not pay by February 10, then they are forcing us to take the next step,” he said.
He explained that this meant that the vehicles would have to be sold for costs to be recovered.
Sishi said that, similarly, in the case of Shange, the legal team was investigating the matter thoroughly before payment was made.
He said they were considering taking the matter to a “higher court”.
The argument had been made by the department that Shange’s family had not sued timeously, but this had been rejected by the Supreme Court.
“We do not defend violence against children but we just want to ensure the teacher’s side is heard.
“The decision was based on the probability that the teacher (deputy principal) would use corporal punishment, from the learner’s evidence.”
Sishi said the legal team was pursuing the matter to see if another judge would give more weight to the teacher’s evidence.