THE education official "at the forefront" of efforts to expose mismanagement and possible corruption in the run-up to the Limpopo textbook crisis should be reinstated immediately, and the Presidency should make a public show of support for all whistle-blowers in the province, Section 27 said yesterday.
The call by the lobby group came after most textbooks had now been delivered to pupils in Limpopo following a seven-month wait, although the public is still waiting for the full implementation of a catch-up plan for those affected.
There is also no indication when the outcome will be announced of a presidential probe into those responsible for mismanaging the procurement and delivery of teaching resources this year.
Executive director of Section 27 Mark Heywood said the former acting CEO of the Limpopo education department, Solly Tshitangano, remained unemployed and without a pension, despite being the first to raise concerns over tenders for textbooks in the province.
Mr Tshitangano was dismissed in December last year, after being "ignored for nearly two years by officials and politicians" during his attempts to expose problems in the department, said Mr Heywood.
Mr Tshitangano was the first to question the legality of the R320m EduSolutions tender to procure and deliver textbooks to schools in Limpopo, and "should be celebrated as a hero", said Mr Heywood.
The contract was cancelled in April this year due to a legal opinion given to the national department that the tender process was "neither fair, equitable, transparent, competitive nor cost-effective".
EduSolutions maintains it has won the tender in a fair process, with spokesman Themba Ndhlovu saying last month if the contract had not been cancelled the books would have been delivered on time.
The Department of Basic Education has maintained that even if it were aware of problems of procurement early last year, as a national department concerned with the development of policy, it had no authority to intervene. The Limpopo education department was one of five placed under national administration in December over the prospect of a R2bn shortfall.
Department of Basic Education spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said yesterday the opposition to Mr Tshitangano’s reinstatement in the Labour Court "is not about textbooks" but that there were other charges of misconduct involved.
These charges needed to be tested in the "neutral space" of the courts, he said.
The department was also awaiting the outcome of relevant investigations in the province. This included a probe by the Special Investigating Unit, and investigators needed "space and latitude" to do their work, said Mr Lesufi.
But Mr Heywood said it was "ironic" that Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga was relying on Mr Tshitangano’s allegations as evidence to justify the decision to cancel the EduSolutions contract, while at the same time opposing his Labour Court application for reinstatement.
Section 27 believed charges of misconduct brought against Mr Tshitangano had been "manufactured around his opposition to the EduSolutions tender".
Mr Lesufi said Ms Motshekga had agreed to meet with civil society organisations, including Section 27, which for weeks had been requesting a formal sit-down. This would happen "as soon as possible".
More in this section
- Unbundling of University of Limpopo nearly finalised
- Review of public servants’ pay due as soon as Sadtu talks conclude
- Courts should ‘not have say’ in school closures, high court hears
- Sadtu’s involvement in school closures ‘not political’
- Grant’s decision to close Western Cape schools ‘unlawful’
- Wits faces job threats unrest