Premier gives in to opposition parties’ pressure, orders probe into R2.1 billion school feeding scheme

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube. Picture: Supplied

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 22, 2023

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Durban - The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Nomusa Dube-Ncube has finally given in to pressure from opposition parties and civic forums and ordered a probe into the collapsing R2.1 billion schools nutrition programme which feeds over 2.4 million learners in 2 446 poor schools across the province.

The probe comes after the KwaZulu-Natal Nutrition Business Forum called a press conference in Durban on Friday and laid bare the many challenges faced by the now centralised scheme.

The forum said anyone who claimed that schools have food was “lying” and in those few schools that have got food, it is not what should have been delivered.

The forum that has been delivered has no cooking oil and LP gas used by schools to cook for the learners.

In some cases, some schools have been provided with food that is rotten or that is about to expire.

In another shocking revelation, the forum said this time around, the supply has been downgraded to the extent that a pack of 10kg rice is expected to feed 1 000 learners for a week.

The forum laid the blame at the doorstep of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education led by MEC Mbali Frazer.

It said the department unilaterally changed the previous system which was working and introduced the new system which saw a company that was registered in 2017 and allegedly has no experience, taking over as the main supplier.

After the revelations, ActionSA in the province gave the MEC 14 days to provide it with information regarding the nutrition programme.

Among the information the party’s provincial leader, Zwakele Mncwango, wants from Frazer are tender documents related to this programme and the process which was followed to appoint the single supplier who is now dismally failing to deliver.

Mncwango said if Frazer fails, they will drag her to court.

“We urgently request answers within 14 days hereof.

“We reserve all our legal rights to resolve this matter in the best interests of the people of the KwaZulu-Natal province,” Mncwango said in a letter sent to Frazer on Thursday.

On Saturday, the Mayor of the Zululand District Municipality, Reverend Thulasizwe Buthelezi, wrote to the Office of the Public Protector to request a full investigation into the tender process followed for the scheme.

“My office has been inundated by calls from helpless parents in Zululand and elsewhere whose children are the victims of a greedy, corrupt and out-of-touch ANC government.

“I have therefore this morning written a formal request to the Office of the Public Protector to launch a full-scale investigation into the following aspects of the school nutrition tender:

1. How many service providers are involved, and the value of work awarded to each service provider.

2. The track record of the main supplier in executing projects of this magnitude.

“3. The impact on teaching and learning that this crisis has caused,” said Buthelezi.

Backed into a corner after days of trying to spin the crisis together with Frazer and the ANC in the province, Dube-Ncube said the probe to be led by advocate Linda Zama will look at the newly introduced distribution model and the quality of the food supplied to schools.

“The investigation will cast its net to include probing the food distribution model and quality of the food supplied to 5 444 schools that are recipients of the feeding scheme programme across the province.

“Premier Dube-Ncube has since directed Special Advisor in the Office of the Premier, advocate Linda Zama together with the Research and Monitoring team, Operation Sukuma Sakhe teams, Community Development Workers and Ward Committee Members to scour the province and conduct a comprehensive investigation and analysis of the distribution to every participating school in every ward in the province.

“The probe will establish the extent of the interruptions and produce a comprehensive report on the status of the rollout and management of the food nutrition programme in the province,” her office said on Saturday after the public outcry.

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