In a relentless effort to get embattled Education Minister Angie Motshekga shown the door, the Educators’ Union of South Africa (Eusa) has again written to President Cyril Ramaphosa this time urging the president to probe possible looting of Covid-19 relief funds by the department of basic education.
Eusa, which had previously written to Ramaphosa calling for Motshekga’s resignation, has again appealed for the president’s intervention, this time to probe alleged embezzling of funds of up to R600 million to procure water tanks across the country.
The union also demands an investigation into the awarding of tenders for personal protective equipment, as both teachers and pupils remained with limited and low-quality masks and hand sanitisers.
Representing over 27,000 teachers, the union calls for the establishment of a Covid-19 commission of inquiry into the embezzlement of funds that were directed to the fight against the pandemic in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal schools.
“We would like the proposed Commission of Inquiry to start with the two following cases:
“1. A report that the National Basic Education Department procured 3500 Water tanks (Jojo Tanks) for R600 Million. As EUSA we suspect the element of fraud in this huge amount, as one 2000-litre of Jojo Tank costs R1995,00 at the local market.
“2. The report of the KZN Department of Education dated the 18th of June 2020, where the department says, it spent R28 000,00 per 5000-litre water tank and R6 500 per hand washing station. EUSA believes that the abovementioned exorbitant prizes are way too high since the local markets sell the same unit for +/- R5000,00,” the union wrote in the letter to Ramaphosa.
The urgency of the matter is self-evident, the union said, while suggesting the investigation be launched by 2 July.
Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the allegations were made by “a desperate organisation, as part of their recruitment campaign”.
“In recent times they have been making outrageous statements. They also failed in court to make a case and now they resort to making unfounded and baseless allegations. They must start by growing their members to be recognized in the basic education sector.”
Mhlanga is referring to the union’s failed urgent court bid to halt the “premature” opening of schools in June.
The union, although it lost its urgent application, indicated that it would continue to oppose Motshekga’s reign as she was putting the lives of many pupils and teachers in danger by opening schools.
The unions weren’t the only one targeting the department, as One South Africa chief activist, Mmusi Maimane, also lodged a bid to suspend the reopening of schools for a period of 60 days in order to allow more schools to be adequately prepared.
The matter, which is to challenge the reopening of schools, was heard by a full bench of judges led by Judge Dunstan Mlambo last week.
Outside court, Maimane pointed out that schools he had visited were severely underprepared in facing the coronavirus pandemic. Schools did not have the necessary resources and, as a result, were unable to put adequate measures in place to combat the virus and protect pupils.
Maimane argues that government can only ease the lockdown regulations if there was a reduction in the number of daily infections. The department disagrees with the view and says government never said downward shifts in the alert level system would happen as a direct proportion to the improvement of the health statistics.