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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

KwaZulu-Natal: Uproar Over R11m COVID-19 School Tender

SANDILE MOTHA

AS KwaZulu-Natal welcomed a new cohort of leaners in a phased-in approach to rescue the 2020 academic year, it remains unclear whether they will be catered with the required protective gear.

A hostile business and radical economic transformation grouping calling itself Amadelanga Ngokubona told Inside Education this weekthat it will be taking to task the provincial department of education for allegedly awarding a R11 million  ‘dodgy’ tender to supply personal protective equipment in schools under eThekwini metro without following normal tendering process.

According to the formation, the tender is meant for supplying sanitizers and face masks to Grade 6 and Grade 11 pupils in the eThekwini education district.

“We are concerned that the tender was not advertised publicly for everyone to have a fair chance to bid. We just heard that it has been awarded. Amadelanga Ngokubona are also of a view that the contract could have been divided so that more companies could benefit,” said Sandakahle Magubane, speaking on behalf of the business formation.

Magubane added that the formation would be staging a picket in various office of the department of education to block the supply of the material to schools.

“We will ensure that sanitizers and masks destined for schools do not leave the offices. This we will do until we get the answers we want,” added Magubane.

He also said his organisation was concerned that Indian business people were getting preferential treatment when it comes to government contracts in KwaZulu Natal.

“We can’t have a situation where black people are continuously treated as second class citizens under a black government,” he said.

Kwazi Mthethwa, education spokesperson, said the department viewed the threat in serious light, saying differences should be resolved amicably instead of resorting to scare tactics.

He did not confirm nor deny that the tender was awarded.

“As a department we have been battling this problem of business forums who want to hold the department to ransom. The MEC has taken a decision not to give in to these threats by involving the department of community safety who will deal with any disruptions to teaching and learning,” said Mthethwa.

Last week, MEC for Education Kwazi Mshengu admitted that there was an unprecedented delay in the supply of personal protective equipment because of business formations who want a stake in the contracts to supply school.

He labelled the business forums as extortionists, saying the tendering process was transparent and that the groupings did not want to participate and now are resorting to ‘Mafia-style’ tactics.

Meanwhile, the phasing of Grade 6 and Grade 11 under the King Cetshwayo district municipality was reportedly disrupted as schools had to turn pupils away because of inadequate classes.

Nomafu Ngubane, school governing body’s chairperson of one of the affected schools, said there was no space to accommodate the new cohort of pupils as it had been occupied by matric pupils.

“In total, we have about 489 Grade 11 pupils and we had to use their classes to accommodate matric. So we decided to turn them away because mobile classrooms have not been delivered yet,” Ngubane told Inside Education.

Apart from this, the province has seen 306 teachers and 81 pupils being tested positive for COVID-19 since reopening schools a month ago.

The number includes the death of 4 teachers as result of the pandemic.

In terms of the overall COVID-19 infections in KwaZulu-Natal, eThekwini district tops the province with 7 666 infections.

The metro is followed closely by uMgungundlovu and iLembe district respectively.

(Compiled by Inside Education staff

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