File image: African News Agency (ANA)
File image: African News Agency (ANA)

Gauteng MEC Panyaza Lesufi scolds Western Cape for reopening schools

By Siviwe Feketha Time of article published Jun 3, 2020

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Johannesburg - Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has slammed the decision by the Western Cape government in defying the national government's decision to only officially reopen schools next amid concerns over possible Covid-19 infections.

Lesufi was speaking during the virtual seating of the Gauteng provincial legislature where he detailed the state of preparedness of his department to ensure safety in schools.

According to Lesufi, all districts in the province are ready to return learners back to the classroom as the department has already addressed all the requirements set down by the government. including the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for learners and teachers.

On Monday, Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that the reopening of schools which was scheduled for June 1 would be postponed to Monday next week as some provinces were still finalising their preparations.

Lesufi slammed the DA-led Western Cape for going ahead to reopen schools in defiance of Motshekga's announcement.

“The reality is that we have got one South Africa and we have got one Constitution. We don't have a federal state. We have a state that is run at the centre and in education there are responsibilities that are assigned to the minister and there are responsibilities that are assigned to the MECs,” he said.

Only Motshekga was empowered to determine the school calendar and the decision to reopen schools by the Western Cape was illegal, Lesufi said.

“The misbehaviour and the attitude of the Western Cape government to think that they are a federal state or they are a government on their own and that they can defy national government and open schools must be rejected,” he said.

The SA Human Rights Commission has already approached the courts in a bid to block the schools reopening in the province.

Meanwhile, Human Settlements MEC Lebogang Maile has defended his department for not possessing clear figures relating to the Covid-19 de-densification programme which will see several households being moved from densely populated informal settlements to minimise infections.

Despite being the smallest in size, Gauteng is the country's most densely populated province at more than 12 million, with scores of informal settlements that posed difficulty in effectively minimising the Covid-19 spread.

While it was the main focus of the national government's de-densification programme that targeted around 29 settlements for relocation to temporary structures, Maile said he did not readily have projections of how many structures would be built.

“We cannot project but what we know is that the housing backlog is about a million so it will not be different.

"The only thing is that we will be building about 13500 structures according to the budget that is allocated to us,” Maile said.

The DA’s Mervyn Cirota said Maile failed to provide the current state of progress in terms of how many people had been moved and when the temporary structures would be completed ahead of the anticipated peak.

Cirota lamented that the department could not explain how the Covid-19 de-densification programme would help reduce the current housing backlog in the province.

Maile, however hit back, saying his department would only make projections about money that was available.

“We don't want to make predictions that are in our heads and not based on money allocated. The Finance Minister (Tito Mboweni) on June 25 will announce a reviewed budget and at that time we should be able to talk about the allocations,” he said.

The Star

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