Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga admitted on Wednesday that the Limpopo textbook and teaching crisis could have been handled better, but she did not apologise for the shameful mess.
“You will find that in terms of our records, some consignments had gone out, but the books had not reached schools because of the sabotage that we experienced, especially around the dumping of books in the province,” she said.
“It’s regrettable that we were unable to deliver books on time. That one is a statement we have made repeatedly,” the minister said. “we are not even wanting to give excuses because it’s something that should not have happened, but we are also saying education is a very scientific process.
“You just don’t do anything at any time. You have to do everything systematically and scientifically,” she said.
Motshekga, speaking at a briefing in Polokwane after her meetings with principals in the Capricorn district on Wednesday, said they had primarily discussed a catch-up plan for teaching in the embattled province.
Motshekga said principals were critical for the successful implementation of the recovery plan.
“The idea of meeting principals, one, is to ensure that the recovery plan is credible, because the principals run the schools.”
Motshekga said she would meet all the principals in the province by the end of this month.
On Wednesday, they also discussed the effect of the national intervention. Motshekga said it was important to clarify the role of the intervention team.
She said her officials were still verifying the number of schools that still lacked books and those that had received extra books by mistake.
She said she was aware that books for the Tsonga language were still missing.
“The only supplier who provides Tsonga books in this province had billed us for 15 000 sets, R57 million, which we didn’t have, because for a bigger number of 45 000 sets, [in other provinces] we wouldn’t even pay R5 million.”
The department had decided to move business elsewhere.
“Because Gauteng and Mpumalanga also use Tsonga books, we are using the service providers from those provinces.”
She said the delay in the delivery of some textbooks was caused when books were dumped.
A provincial department official was arrested last month and charged with malicious damage to property in relation to the dumping of textbooks in Giyani.
Asked whether she would heed the calls for her resignation made by the ANC Youth League and student movement Cosas this week, she responded: “I just don’t know why you are impatient.
“The president has set up a task team, which is going to give a report, and on the basis [of it] we move forward…
“What’s this whole rush about?”
She said nobody had been found guilty. “I really think it’s very unbalanced and very unfair, and that’s why I refuse to answer.
“I am saying be patient… It will come, in your lifetime, it will come and we will take things from there,” said Motshekga.
Last week The Star reported that Motshekga knew about the looming textbook crisis in July last year.
This was four months before the bankrupt provincial department was placed under national government administration.
According to a report handed to the presidential task team, Motshekga was told that the original R633m budget had been reduced by the province to R372m and that this would not be enough to buy textbooks and stationery.
Motshekga has repeatedly said she could not intervene until the provincial department was placed under administration.