THE Department of Basic Education has learned with "great concern" that textbooks for this academic year have still not been delivered in Limpopo province, despite a court-ordered deadline that expired last week, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Wednesday.

The minister was responding to a chorus of claims that the delivery date of Friday last week had not been met. A North Gauteng High Court had ordered last month that delivery of the textbooks take place by June 15, following a court application by public interest law firm Section27.

Ms Motshekga said in a statement on Wednesday that books had not been delivered despite "trusted service providers who vowed to deliver the books to Limpopo schools on time".

"The situation is completely unacceptable," she said. "I have demanded a full report about reasons for this delay so that appropriate steps can be taken."

The minister said she would meet education stakeholders in Limpopo to apologise for this "unforeseen and unfortunate situation", adding that her department had been informed that textbooks had been delivered and "acted in good faith based on this information".

At a press conference last week, Ms Motshekga had said the court-ordered delivery date reflected the department's views regarding the earliest possible time of delivery and, "as we speak", textbooks were being delivered to a central warehouse in Polokwane.

On Wednesday, she said the department had received "on time" all the textbooks that had been ordered, and had saved the Limpopo government R1bn in the process.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday demanded the immediate dismissal of Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale, saying it was "appalled" at the continued failure by the province to provide its schools with textbooks.

Patrick Sikhutshi, acting chairman of the Congress of the People in Limpopo, said an investigation by the party had revealed that Swobani High School in Vhembe, near Musina, had received no supplies since the start of the year.

Most schools in the Senwabarwana municipality, near the Botswana border, had also not received any material. "These were just some of the results of the investigation," he said.

Last week, the Democratic Alliance also queried Ms Motshekga's claims that her department was making great strides in Limpopo, with DA education spokeswoman Anette Lovemore saying the minister had to learn to acknowledge her mistakes.

"If she cannot admit to her department's mistakes, Minister Motshekga virtually ensures that they will be repeated again. Learners cannot be allowed to face the same chaos again," Ms Lovemore said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Cosatu said that if it was not "bad enough that it required a high court order to compel the province to do what it should have done in January", it was even "more outrageous" that a month after the order was issued, it had still not been fulfilled.

The premier, the MEC for education and directors involved in the provincial education department should be dismissed, it said, adding: "Heads must roll."

With SAPA

gernetzkyk@bdfm.co.za