KWAZULU-NATAL (KZN) refuses to come clean on making public an investigation report into the collapse of the centralised food nutrition programme meant to feed 2.4 million learners in 5 436 schools across the province.
Unlike the previous school food distribution by local-level companies that provided fresh food and groceries to KZN provincial school kitchens, the Department of Education awarded Pacina Projects a multibillion-rand tender as the main food distribution supplier where service providers had to collect food packs and distribute them to schools.
However, early this year, millions of pupils had to be turned back as no food was available for them.
This caused panic, as classes had to be suspended when service providers could not find food in some of Pacina’s distribution centres. At the time, the company blamed political sabotage for this failure to deliver food items to schools.
When the pressure was ramped up on Education MEC Mbali Fraser, she had to take over the supply of food to schools in some parts of the province due to Pacina’s logistical shortcomings as the company scrambled to come up with a plan for May.
Due to pressure the premier’s office was forced to jump in after political parties and civil society complained about the situation.
Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube ordered a full-scale investigation.
“I directed the 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 conduct an investigation and analysis of food distribution at participating schools in every ward,” Dube-Ncube said.
Seven months later, no report has been made public despite the investigation having been completed.
Last month, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) called for the investigation report to be made public, alleging that individuals were being protected, but their plea fell on deaf ears.
Efforts by Independent Media to access the investigation report were also unsuccessful, as the KZN Education Department flatly refused to disclose the findings of the report.
Spokesperson for the department, Muzi Mahlambi, said: “The IFP was part of the finance oversight committee where all the answers could be found.”
He further said that the food parcels were now decentralised to more than a thousand service providers across the province, but refused to disclose whether Pacina was still doing business with the department.
Approached for a comment, IFP Chief Whip in the KZN legislature, Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa, said the reason the department was not coming forward with the report was because some politicians were directly involved.
“They will not speak the truth because their fingerprints are everywhere. We know that Pacina is still in the system and the company is still distributing food to the schools. It is clear that there’s deep corruption taking place,” Madlopha-Mthethwa said.
In April, DA KZN spokesperson on education, Imran Keeka, said the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had confirmed that it had an interest in the KZN school nutrition saga.
“The DA welcomes the SIU’s commitment to investigating this matter. We further note the delayed intervention by Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube and the national minister,” Keeka said.
SIU spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, told Independent Media that he would provide the progress report on the matter, but had not done so by time of publication.
No comment has been forthcoming weeks after Independent Media sent questions to various people in the premier’s office, and this despite many promises to respond.
Pacina chief executive, Manzini Zungu, said that he could not comment on the matter and referred this publication to the Department of Education.
Department of Basic Dducation spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, had not responded to to queries by time of publication.