Durban - The Department of Education has not paid its telephone bill at Truro House on 17 Margaret Mncadi Avenue, resulting in Telkom cutting the lines.

Although the Daily News was not able to establish the amount owed, it confirmed the telephone lines were cut because of the non-payment, which officials at provincial level were unaware of.

The department owns the building and is letting out offices to other government departments.

Employees are now frustrated because two weeks have gone by without any solution.

Other education stakeholders as well as recently resigned and retired teachers were unable to communicate with the office about their pension payouts.

Teachers’ unions were finding it difficult to make enquiries.

Some workers on Wednesday said management had been mum on the issue.

Kwazi Mthethwa, the department spokesperson, said they were unaware of the non-payment of the bill until the telephone lines were cut.

“Ordinarily, we should have been informed as early as possible by the people who work there.

“The issue regarding the functionality of the building, whether it’s water, electricity or phones, the problems should have been resolved with the management of the district before it escalated to this point,” he said.

Mthethwa said the department was working at resolving the matter as soon as possible.

He blamed the non-payment on a lack of communication.

This week, the Daily News reported that schools under the eThekwini Municipality owed the city just more than R80 million in unpaid electricity bills.

Some schools were disconnected and had to make arrangements to pay the arrears after a meeting with mayor Zandile Gumede last week.

With the phone lines disconnected, principals, union officials, teachers and other department officials were forced to travel to the offices to make the simplest enquiry.

An employee said on Wednesday that it had been an unbearable two weeks. He said workers were being forced to walk from one floor to another to communicate.

A principal said he had been trying to make leave enquiries about one of his teachers who was sick, but could not get through to the offices.

“This matter must be sorted out as soon as possible because it affects our schools directly. We have to make enquiries on a daily basis,” he said.

Thirona Moodley, the spokesperson for the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA, said they were also affected. She said she was forced to make cellphone calls to people at the Truro House offices several times.

“I am fortunate to have some people’s cellphone numbers. But what about others? Principals cannot afford to leave school every time they need to communicate with this office.

“Two weeks is a long time. That office is a support system for schools; it cannot afford to be out of reach,” Moodley said.

She said they wanted the department to explain what was going on and to make available other means of communication in the meantime.

“We are not surprised to find that the allegations of non-payment were true, judging by the recent failure of the department to pay schools for norms and standards, and stationery service providers on time.”

Daily News