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Court fight looms over food crisis in schools

Manzini Zungu (waving hands) during one of his school visits. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency (ANA)

Manzini Zungu (waving hands) during one of his school visits. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 26, 2023


Durban — A court battle is looming between the owner of the company that is at the centre of the school nutrition debacle and the civic society movement, Umsinsi Wokuzimilela, after the movement’s refusal to withdraw its open letter to a retail group and a private prestigious college.

The movement, which is known for its controversial door-to-door visits to politicians’ homes in KwaZulu-Natal, penned a hard-hitting open letter on Sunday.

The leadership of the group, which also calls itself the South African Native Movement, met on Sunday at KwaMamdekazi Community Hall, Mariannhill, with the representatives of the Xubera Institute for Research and Development under the leadership of Benedict Xolani Dube. The meeting agreed to send an open letter to the retail group and college.

In a letter, the movement gave the retail giant and college until 2pm on Monday to explain “its role pertaining to the starvation of the children of the South African Natives National School Nutrition Programme in KwaZulu-Natal” and their relationship with Prince Manzini Zungu’s company that was “fraudulently” awarded the tender.

“Surely, the college management is aware of the inhumane starvation that is being experienced by native school-going children. Prince Manzini Zungu, a parent of children attending your prestigious school, and his company is involved in this devilish act. He is affording his children private school standards in education while thousands of innocent poor SA Native children are starving.

“Umsinsi appeals to the college to be in solidarity with the thousands of South African Native school-going children by not allowing his children to be part of the school until this injustice is resolved by Zungu.

“Umsinsi would like to remind the group and college that you can’t be viewed as the safe house of scoundrels that are destroying the future of South Africa,” read the group’s statement Umsinsi demanded that the response from the retailer and college be published on all social media platforms.

The group also warned them that failure to act on its humble request would be proof that they were protecting the evil-doers in the society. Furthermore, the movement warned of class action against the duo.

In response, Zungu’s legal team from the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm wrote a letter of demand to the movement, asking it to retract the letter within 24 hours.

“We confirm that we are in receipt of a letter issued by you to the group and school management which contains factually inaccurate and defamatory statements. Therefore we are instructed to place the following on record:

“That the content of the communications contains wrongful defamatory statements concerning our clients, you issue a formal withdrawal of any and all defamatory letters and/or publications, and that a public apology be issued and publicised within forty-eight hours from receipt of this letter to the same platform that you have issued the respective defamatory publications.”

It warned that should the movement persist in the impugned conduct, “the law firm holds standing instructions to institute legal proceedings against you, the costs of which you will be held liable”.

The law firm also demanded that the movement provide it with a signed undertaking that it had complied with and/or was taking measures to comply with the demands set out above by no later than 4.30pm on April 25.

Umsinsi’s spokesperson, Reggie Ngcobo, confirmed receipt of a letter from the law firm. However, instead of complying, he said they were going to open a fraud case against the company.

Zungu confirmed that the law firm was instructed by him to deal with the matter. On Sunday, Zungu told the Daily News that there was a well-calculated campaign by certain politicians who had organised community forums to block the delivery of food items to schools so it would look like he was failing in his job.

Meanwhile, the ANC is expected to announce a bold and decisive action on the national school nutrition programme today (Wednesday).

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