South African President Jacob Zuma has cracked the whip over school textbook delivery delays in the country's Limpopo province, appointing a task team to investigate, while national Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has apologised for the province.
Task team to investigate
"Members of the task team will investigate the causes of the non-delivery and delays to affected schools and make recommendations to prevent a future recurrence," the Presidency said in a statement on Wednesday.
"The President has directed that all who are found to have played a role in delaying or stopping the delivery of books should be held accountable and face the consequences."
Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene will chair the team, which also comprises Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty, Deputy Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Obed Bapela, Deputy Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Yunus Carrim and Deputy Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo.
'There should have been proper planning'
Zuma Motshekga and Surty in Pretoria on Tuesday over the long-delayed delivery of textbooks in Limpopo.
Zuma emphasized to Motshekga that it was unacceptable for service providers or officials to destroy limited and precious education resources like books.
The President said there should have been proper planning for the delivery of resources. "For example, the South African National Defence Force could have been used to deliver textbooks if there was proper coordination and planning," said Zuma.
Zuma ordered the ministry to complete the current delivery process, and to work with the National Treasury and the province to ensure that adequate resources were made available. He stressed that planning should be carried out properly for next year's procurement and delivery of textbooks.
The President will meet all ministers involved in the Limpopo intervention to review progress and prevent future problems around the intervention.
Call centre for public queries, information
The textbook delay has affected grades 1, 2, 3 and 10 pupils in Limpopo. Last week, the Department of Basic Education announced that about 99% of textbooks had finally been delivered to grade 10s in the province, while 100% had now been delivered to grade 1, 2 and 3 pupils.
However, the department said it was concerned about reports that books may not have reached all schools in the province.
Motshekga has in the meantime laid a charge against service providers who were contracted to deliver grade 8 and 9 workbooks in Limpopo but dumped some of the books.
The department has also set up a call centre to handle public queries and information on schools that may have not received learning materials.
On Tuesday, Motshekga unequivocally apologised for the delays.
She said that because the provincial Education Department had been placed under national administration, it was only in May that orders for textbooks could be placed with the publishers.
Motshekga added that it was incorrect to suggest that no textbooks had been delivered and no learning had taken place in Limpopo this year.
She said workbooks in literacy and numeracy for grades 1 to 9 had been delivered on time.
"In addition, readers of the previous year and other resource materials could be used as teachers were trained on where there was a deviation from the previous syllabus," Motshekga said.
"With regard to grades 10, all learners received a textbook on mathematics and science on time."
The deviations in the other subjects were brought to the attention of teachers in training sessions last year, and older textbooks could therefore be used for teaching.
This did not, however, detract from the responsibility of the provincial sphere of government to deliver new books on time, hence the intervention by the national government.
National government intervention in Limpopo
Last year, national government intervened in several provincial departments in Limpopo, such as Roads and Transport; Health; Public Works; and Provincial Treasury, in terms of section 100 (1)(b) of the Constitution.
The Presidency said on Wednesday that the intervention in Limpopo had been made difficult by the fact that there was currently no national legislation regulating interventions in terms of section 100 of the Constitution.
The Department of Cooperative Governance had developed the Monitoring, Support and Intervention Bill to fill this gap.
"The President has directed the Presidency and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to prioritise the finalisation of this crucial legislation," the Presidency said.
It added that the President had also directed that while the legislation was being finalised, a special protocol be developed to manage relations between the different spheres of government and ensure that service delivery was not affected.
"Government concedes that there are many lessons to be learned from the Limpopo experience, especially relating to how to manage constitutional interventions by national government in provincial departments," the Presidency said in a statement.