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Johannesburg – Gauteng needs as many as 142 new schools in order to clear the shortage of classrooms, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) which was visiting the province has found.

This week permanent delegates to the NCOP, together with Members of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, divided themselves into eight groups and visited various service delivery sites, met with government officials and held public meetings with residents to assess the impact of migration on service delivery under the theme: “Impact of Migration – Deepening Cooperative Governance for Accelerated Service Delivery and Development”.

"Among the startling discovering made during the visit, the delegates were informed that 723 of the 2,207 schools in the province currently have a shortage of 5 554 classrooms – of which 3 166 are primary schools while 2,388 are secondary schools," said the NCOP in a statement.

"Put differently, this means the province needs a total of 142 new schools (85 primary and 57 secondary schools) to accommodate the learners who are currently accommodated at existing schools and this excludes the schools required in new residential developments plus the 114 000 additional new learners flocking to the province each year."

Between Tuesday and Thursday NCOP delegates visited more than 60 service delivery sites that include schools, immigration offices of the Department of Home Affairs, hospitals, police stations, and early childhood development institutions. 

The delegation also held five public meetings yesterday in Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Tshwane and the West Rand District to find out what service delivery issues the residents were grappling with and to hear their views about possible solutions.

The NCOP said migration impacts on the ability of the province to provide services such as health, education, business opportunities and it also places a strain on the police regarding the enforcement of law and order and general policing.

“We are not saying that South Africans must not move around across their country, we fought for that freedom of movement. But what we are trying to look at is what effect your movements have on the planning and budget allocations for our various provinces. Gauteng seems to be the worst affected by this,” said NCOP Chairperson Thandi Modise.

Delegates said they were told of one hospital where there was what seemed to be the largest concentration of non-South Africans - 58% of the Out-Patient Department and 62% of In-Patient Department and 842 beds were occupied by foreigner nationals.

“We have been made aware of a certain hospital where over 43 percent of people giving birth there are foreign nationals. We have also been told of a certain foreign woman who has been 'caught' for changing her identity to collect ARV treatment at various hospitals so she can go sell it," said Modise. 

"At one clinic, she is said to have changed her names three or four times. In one month, she is alleged to have collected ARVs for 12 people."

The NCOP said in terms of the impact of migration on crime and law enforcement, the delegates were informed about the difficulty in dealing with criminal cases involving foreign nationals, due to language barriers. 

In addition, foreign nationals operating businesses in various areas were easy targets for criminals because they often slept in the shops and kept their money in the premises.

The police also reported that during raids of foreign shops they discovered expired products, some with expiry dates dating as far back as 2011.

Speaking to Soweto residents at the public meeting on Thursday night Modise urged them to remain calm and not take the law into their hands. 

“I beg you don’t take the law into your hands, don’t go for foreigners because not all of them are here doing bad things. Some are here as asylum seekers,” pleaded Modise.

"Those who are beneficial to us must be protected. We need to deal with criminals whether they are foreign or our nationals, we need to deal with rapists whether they are priests or ordinary people."

On the issue of housing, Modise said the NCOP will send a technical team to look into allegations that some houses in Soweto were "stolen". 

African News Agency (ANA)