Alleged attempt to scupper big Eastern Cape e-learning contract
Sizwe Africa IT Group, a black empowerment IT company awarded the Department of Education in the Eastern Cape e-learning contract, and electronics manufacturing giant Samsung, who got the bulk of the contract to supply 55 000 tablets, have been caught in a tug of war between political factions in that province.
Information obtained by Independent Media suggests that the war was between those aligned with President Cyril Ramaphosa, led by Mcebisi Jonas through his interests at telecoms giant MTN, on the one side.
The other group, it is claimed, is led by businessman Thato Abrahams, who has interests in Vodacom - a claim he has since come out to deny.
Jonas did not respond to questions before the deadline.
Sizwe serves as the software provider and implementer and will service the agreement over a period of three years.
When Vodacom did not get the RT15 contract with the Eastern Cape Department of Education, Abrahams allegedly attempted to scupper it.
The State Information Agency (Sita) was then reportedly dispatched to muscle its way in, declaring in the media that the deal was invalid.
A high-ranking source at Sita claims that this was done under the instruction of Luvuyo Keyise, the administrator of the Sita.
The claim that Sizwe, MTN and the Samsung consortium did not inform the Sita about the contract has been debunked. A trail of emails between the organisations, which Independent Media has seen, suggests that Sita’s claims were false.
Investigations have also revealed that all government IT procurement should be done through Sita’s yet to be implemented gCommerce platform; however, in two circulars issued by the Sita, it makes provision for the manual processing of contracts.
This, according to the Sita source, “is particularly applicable to the Sizwe contract as gCommerce does not have the ability to process leasing agreements”.
Further investigations have revealed that the Eastern Cape provincial treasury gave explicit approval for the contract to be awarded.
According to Sizwe, more than 44000 tablets have already been delivered, with the balance due in the next two weeks or so, along with 12 virtual broadcasting studios, the first of their kind in South Africa.
Local small, medium and micro enterprises in the Eastern Cape were contracted by Sizwe, to upload software and also to engrave the tablets.
“The roll-out has been efficient and is already delivering significant benefits to the learners in the Eastern Cape,” said the company.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, corporate affairs executive at MTN SA, said: “MTN remains confident that our role in the partnership with Sizwe is rooted in the required due diligence and the strict adherence to our own internal processes and best business practice.
“In addition, our solutions are geared toward offering our customers value and innovation in this competitive industry. In line with MTN’s fair business practice, no contempt is held for any other bidders of the Sizwe Africa business.”