Durban — It is not the amount of money that is at issue here, the literal rusting away of R2 million being a drop in the ocean of corruption, mismanagement, maladministration, general incompetence and ubiquitous “fruitless and wasteful expenditure” – a catch-all for all bad spending – that costs the country billions annually.
Rather, the issues are the demonstration of a complete lack of respect for public money and the total disregard for the lives of pupils who the four boats rotting away on dry land at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board premises were supposed to help.
Education in South Africa, especially in rural areas, is fraught with many difficulties.
Pupils must contend with crumbling, dilapidated classrooms, a shortage of teachers, overcrowding, a lack of facilities and equipment essential for their education, poor or no sanitation and sometimes no electricity too.
But first they must get to school.
In many rural areas this entails crossing a river or dam, a dangerous undertaking at the best of times, but exponentially more so during or after rain.
Affected pupils daily embrace the indignity of stripping down on one bank, crossing over and then getting dressed on the other to keep uniforms dry.
But it need not be this way – at least, not for all the pupils.
In 2017, the Education Department identified pupils from more than 180 schools who cross bodies of water daily and spent R2 million buying boats to ferry them in safety. But it appears none of the four boats at the Sharks Board have yet got their bottoms wet, while the pupils continue taking their lives in their hands in pursuit of an education.
Quite how the boats were bought is a mystery, as it appears that no feasibility study was conducted during the procurement process and no provision made for staff or maintenance.
The results of an investigation into the debacle are yet to see the light of day, and we are unaware if anyone has been taken to task.
Unfortunately, the sordid mess is just one example of the apathy that accompanies government spending countrywide.
Independent on Saturday