Durban — KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube has vowed to take harsh action against the people responsible for the school nutrition blunder which left thousands of pupils starving last week.
Addressing the media after tabling her office budget, Dube-Ncube said she was happy that food supplies had been restored in many districts, except Ugu on the South Coast, which was lagging behind.
Dube-Ncube said although the problem has been fixed, it was not enough as she still wanted the people who were responsible to account.
She said she has asked the Department of Education to provide her with a report about specific problems and the people who were responsible for the blunder, saying those responsible would pay the price.
Dube-Ncube added that it was not all schools that were affected, since some still had their food supplies which were left from the previous term.
“We want to apologise to schools and communities that were affected by this, but we will get to the bottom of what actually caused it, and who was responsible,” she vowed.
“If it was government officials, there will be consequences, and if the problem was with service providers, we will also deal with them.
“If it means we have to terminate their contracts, so be it because this was not acceptable,” said Dube-Ncube.
The problem has affected more than 5 000 schools, mainly no-fee paying schools.
Schools were forced to release children earlier to avoid them collapsing in classes because of hunger.
The service providers said the problem was not only a shortage of supplies, but also the quality of food, as most items were stale – which put the childrens’ health at risk.
The issue took centre stage in the provincial legislature, with opposition parties demanding answers from the premier.
The crusade was led by IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa, who called it a disaster and a disservice to poor children who relied on the scheme for survival.
Hlabisa said it was disappointing that for a week children had starved, and called for serious consequences, saying that his party would closely monitor Dube-Ncube’s pronouncement to see to it that she lived up to her promises.
The DA also weighed in, lashing out at the government.
DA leader Francois Rogers said his party was shocked to hear the premier saying schools used the leftovers from the last term, which meant the children were fed stale food.
Finance MEC Peggy Nkonyeni told the Daily News that the money was not an issue, but there were logistical problems on the side of the main supplier.
Another major announcement by the Dube-Ncube was the ending of suspensions of workers with pay.
She said all workers serving suspension and drawing salaries while sitting idle at home would become a thing of the past, adding that now those on suspension would be redeployed to do certain government work pending their disciplinary action.
Dube-Ncube said her government had also taken a decision to block people with pending cases from being employed by another department, or even in another province.
However, the DA said Dube-Ncube should not be trusted since there was a big backlog of outstanding cases in her office, adding that her office had been slow in acting against charged people.
Dube-Ncube said there was an increase of youth funding to R100 million, saying the government had made some changes in that it would not give cash to individual businesses, but would pay for equipment and training costs for the youth in order to start new businesses.
Dube-Ncube said the strengthening of the crime-fighting plan by asking that each department donate R10m towards fighting crime, especially cross-border crime, which has been terrorising villages of the uMkhanyakude district in the far north of the province.
She also announced that next week the government would go back to uMkhanyakude to hold an imbizo with communities.
She further announced the resumption of wall barrier construction on the Mozambique border, which had been abandoned by the previous contractor.
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