(File image) Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Pretoria - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, facing a clamour for her resignation over the Limpopo textbook debacle, has been given a boost by the country’s nine education MECs, who have presented a united front in support of her.

The Council of Education Ministers said it was unfair for the whole education sector, which had scored improved matric pass rates and pro-poor policies, such as no-fee schools and nutrition schemes, under Motshekga, to be tarnished by the textbook debacle. But the Congress of SA Students (Cosas) would have none of it on Friday.

“We reiterate our call to Mama Angie to stop playing games and embarrassing the ANC-led government any further and resign immediately [to] spare President Jacob Zuma the pain of having to fire her,” said Cosas president Bongani Mani.

The call came after Motshekga said the National Treasury had agreed to provide additional money to fund the learning catch-up plan in Limpopo. However, it is understood agreements on overtime pay to teachers to teach over weekends and holidays still need to be finalised.

“Minister Angie must not force the National Treasury to waste taxpayers’ money, rather she must take [it] from her salary and all those found responsible [should] pay for all that needs to be paid to remedy the crisis that has emerged on her watch,” added Mani.

Cosas and the ANC Youth League had on Tuesday promised “action” if the minister did not resign by mid-August.

After last week’s ANC national executive committee lekgotla, which described the failure to deliver textbooks as “shocking and unacceptable”, on Thursday the cabinet expressed “grave concern” over the textbook saga. But its statement did not refer to the minister and only noted that the presidential task team had submitted a preliminary report to Zuma.

In turn, the Presidency made it clear Zuma was still studying the interim report and while education was “an apex priority” for the government and the president personally, action could only be taken once the final report had been submitted. This was not expected before the end of next week, since the team’s chairman, Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, was abroad.

For now the ball is in the court of the Treasury and the Basic Education Department, which have been told to ensure there is no repeat of the textbook crisis next year.

And amid talk from the ANC and the Presidency that anyone found responsible for the debacle would face action, including possibly criminal charges, it appears Motshekga is safe for now. - Pretoria News Weekend