Service providers storm KZN Department of Education to demand overdue payment for school feeding scheme

Frustrated service providers had to storm these offices of the KZN department of education to demand payment. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/IOL

Frustrated service providers had to storm these offices of the KZN department of education to demand payment. Picture: Sihle Mavuso/IOL

Published Jun 17, 2023


Durban - The R2.1 billion KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education school feeding scheme continues to encounter challenges at every turn.

In the latest challenge, frustrated service providers who cannot get finance from banks are now claiming that the Department of Education in the province had not paid some of them since April when schools opened for the second term.

Invoices are said to be sitting unattended in the department while “broke” service providers have to turn to loan sharks to keep the fires burning in schools.

This comes as late last month an investigation by IOL uncovered that some schools in the Mtubatuba area, in the north of the province, are yet to receive their foodstuff.

Poor parents had to fork out money from their pockets to buy food to feed their learners after some of them fainted due to hunger.

IOL has been inundated with calls from the Umzinyathi, Uthukela, Amajuba and eThekwini districts where the problem of no payment has been prevalent.

“We have never been paid since April by the department, we heard that others have been paid, but we were left behind.

“We have no idea what is causing the hold up as all the issues they raised when we submitted (invoices) were corrected,” a service provider from Ladysmith told IOL.

A service provider from Umzinyathi claimed that not only is the department frustrating them by not paying them, but also some principals delay in signing claims.

“On Monday officials were monitoring schools and they said there was no one in the office to process our claims,” the service provider said.

On Thursday, a group of service providers from uMlazi took to Truro House (the offices of the department) in Durban to demand to be paid.

The heated meeting lasted for hours and one of the staff members in charge of the nutrition programme was told that she is “useless” by the angry service providers.

The service providers have since formed a committee to corner the department to pay the outstanding amounts before schools close next week Friday.

The spokesperson of the committee, Vukile Blose, confirmed to IOL that they took to the offices to demand payment.

He said according to his understanding, the issue of non-payment is prevalent in the eThekwini district and Ugu on the south coast.

“Officials of the department tried to duck and dive, claiming that they are in a meeting at Howard.

“We told them that we are not going anywhere until they meet us and they eventually showed up.

“What we found puzzling was that the invoices have been processed and they are sitting in the system.

“They claimed that they are waiting for the next payment run to settle them,” Blose said.

He also said he personally called the MEC for Education in the province, Mbali Frazer, who told him that she had no idea why the claims have not been settled.

“The MEC told me that she called Peggy Nkonyeni (the MEC for Finance) to enquire whether there were finances issues behind this and she said no, the money is available,” Blose added.

The spokesperson of the department, Muzi Mahlambi, did not respond when asked what is causing the delay in settling the claims.

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