DURBAN – Controversial “business forum” Delangokubona on Monday night denied that it had threatened to disrupt KwaZulu-Natal school exams because its members were not awarded a tender to transport exam papers, despite the education department claiming otherwise.
“We have said nothing of the sort,” Delangokubona national chairman Thabani Mzulwini told African News Agency (ANA).
He was responding to a statement issued on Monday evening by Bheki Ntuli, the recently appointed province’s MEC for transport, community safety and liaison.
In his statement, Ntuli said he had issued a “stern warning” to those aiming to disrupt exams.
The threats of disruptions were allegedly made by Delangokubona earlier in the week and, according to department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi, were “stepped up” on Friday and over the weekend.
Mahlambi told ANA “a message got through to us” that Delangokubona had made the threats.
The MEC had on Monday directed his department and police management “to reinforce the schools' examination security plan to safeguard the distribution of examination papers,” according to the department, which added that the situation would be closely monitored.
“These threats are viewed very seriously, and we do not take them lightly. Anything that seeks to disrupt the future of our children will be met with tough actions from the state. Anything that is tampering with the future of our children will never be tolerated,” said Ntuli.
He added that transporting of matric examination papers was an “extensive process” with which the education department had to deal, and included security vetting of all service providers.
The security plan that had been developed dealt with all threats during the examinations and police would be deployed at hot-spots, said Ntuli.
On Tuesday, the justice, crime prevention and security cluster (JCPS) would be meeting to discuss a number of issues in the province, said the MEC, including securing the matric examinations.
Mzulwini told ANA it was “unfair” that Delangokubona did work for government entities and did not get paid.
This is what the group was unhappy about, he said and reiterated that the forum would not be attempting to disrupt exams and had not discussed it.
“In June and July this year, the [eThekwini] Municipality approached us for the delivery of vegetables for feeding contracts. Our members did the work, delivered the goods and we still have not been paid,” said Mzulwini.
The initiative had been a joint venture between the city and the provincial education department, he said.
The forum initially rose to prominence when it started invading construction sites across Durban from at least 2015 and demanding a cut of the work at gunpoint.
Several other loosely formed "business forums" have since mushroomed in the province, which utilises similar aggressive tactics. The forums target local and provincial government.
Mzulwini added that Delangokubona members did want security contracts, but not for transportation of education material. The contracts they were seeking were for guarding vacant buildings belonging to the municipality.
The forum also wanted to turn the buildings into student accommodation and rent them out, he said.
The forum has been publicly called “thugs” and accused of employing “mafia-style” tactics by several senior government officials, however, Mzulwini said it was unfair to be called thugs when officials “won’t even talk to us”.