BASIC EDUCATION Minister Angie Motshekga knew about Limpopo’s looming textbook crisis in July last year, four months before the bankrupt provincial Education Department was placed under administration.
This is contained in a leaked report, compiled by the provincial Education Department and apparently handed to the presidential task team.
President Jacob Zuma appointed a task team of deputy ministers, led by Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, to probe the non-delivery and the delay in the delivery of textbooks at Limpopo schools.
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj, could not be reached to confirm if the task team had received the report.
A copy of the report that Independent Newspapers has seen, indicates that Motshekga met Education MEC Dickson Masemola in Polokwane on July 20 last year.
In that meeting, she was told the original R633 million allocation for textbooks and stationery for the 2012 academic year had been reduced to R372m.
Limpopo Education spokesman Pat Kgomo confirmed the meeting, but would not be drawn into divulging details.
“We met the minister several times, even in July last year, but I can’t go into details of the meeting,” said Kgomo.
The report shows that Motshekga was informed that the procurement of textbooks for grades 1, 2, 3 and 10, which were set to start with the new curriculum assessment policy statements, had not been funded.
Officials in the provincial department say the minister was informed that the revised R372m was not enough to buy textbooks.
Motshekga neither denies nor confirms that she had been briefed of the state of affairs before the textbook saga worsened.
Hope Mokgatle, her spokeswoman, said: “The minister says whether she was made aware or not, in July 2011, she was not in charge of the (provincial) department.
“Even if she knew, there was nothing she could do because section 100 (1) (b) of the constitution had not been applied yet.”
Limpopo failed to buy textbooks with publishers in September last year, because it had no money.
According to the report, the department said it was compelled to cut R261m from the original R633m allocated for textbooks and stationery, to pay employees as per the occupational specific dispensation agreement (OSD).
The provincial department said OSD was a national competence, but that it had not been funded.
It said the revised R372m was not enough to buy both stationery and textbooks.
Motshekga took over control of the provincial department in December and part of her priorities included ordering textbooks.
Independent Newspapers reported in May that Basic Education director-general Bobby Soobrayan had allegedly repeatedly ignored calls to order textbooks for Limpopo, according to court papers.
Executive director of Publishers Association of SA (Pasa), Brian Wafawarowa, said in court documents before the Pretoria High Court that Soobrayan had turned a blind eye on his efforts to help the province to get textbooks on time.
“On December 5, 2011, when no orders had been placed by the (provincial) department for textbooks, Pasa contacted the director-general (Soobrayan) in the (Basic Education Department) to ascertain why there was a delay in ordering textbooks and to offer help where necessary to avoid the situation from reaching crisis level.
“No response to this letter was received,” Wafawarowa said. Nine days later, he had sent the department an e-mail to alert it that pupils would be without books when schools reopened in January, unless an order was placed urgently, he said.
The department had not responded, according to Wafawarowa.
“I followed up again on December 15, 2011, requesting details as to who Pasa should liaise with to ensure that textbooks were ordered and delivered as soon as possible.”
Again, the department had not responded to his correspondence, he said.
It was only after he had phoned Soobrayan later that he was told about problems in the department. By March, the department had still not placed an order.
Books were only delivered to schools more than halfway into the academic year.
This week, Zuma appeared to shield Motshekga from criticism during his interview with Gauteng-based Talk Radio 702.
“You don’t know who’s responsible for that. You can’t say the minister, who is sitting in Pretoria in the office, is responsible,” Zuma was quoted as saying.