There was an element of sabotage from suppliers and principals that hindered the education department's delivery of textbooks to schools in Limpopo, an official said on Thursday.

Acting basic education deputy director general Mathanzima Mweli said a micro-medium enterprise had not arrived to complete the delivery process, and in some areas principals and school management were unavailable to sign for orders on Wednesday.

“We then had to deploy UTI personnel, who had to take those books to schools; we also experienced some problems with principals who were not available,” Mweli said.

“We will definitely penalise those (who) did not come and deliver the entire consignment that was assigned to them.”

He said eight central warehouses were cleared. At the remaining warehouse in Thohoyandou, the distributors who were supposed to collect the books did not arrive.

Some pupils have been without textbooks for the past six months after the department failed to procure books on time.

The education department has a catch-up plan which includes a winter programme for Grade 12 pupils and Saturday classes. Other grades would have their own plans, depending which textbooks they did not get.

The national department took over the running of Limpopo's education department in December following maladministration.

The department was initially ordered in May to provide Limpopo schools with textbooks by June 15. The High Court in Pretoria ruled in May that the department's failure to provide textbooks violated the Constitution.

Rights group Section 27, which brought the application, met the department after the first deadline expired, and it was decided that delivery of the textbooks be completed by Wednesday.

Mweli said there were no textbooks left in any of the warehouses, except that in Thohoyandou. – Sapa