Anthony Benadie MPL Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga The Mpumalanga department of Public Works Roads and Transport (DPWRT) needs to act immediately to ensure learners’ rights to access to education are met amidst the ongoing bus strike in the Ermelo 1 and 2 circuits. More than 3 000 scholars haven’t attended school since Monday after Mpumalanga scholar transport subcontractors embarked on a strike in demand of “outstanding payment” from tender holder – Habana Trading. The DA is appalled at claims that the sub-contractors haven’t been paid since October, signifying that little or no oversight has been done by the department which can ill-afford a situation where thousands of children are not attending school. We fail to understand how MEC Dikeledi Mahlangu allowed the situation to get to this point given that at the DPWRT committee meeting on Tuesday she gave her word that the matter was under control – which clearly it is not. This situation begs the serious question about why the department allows tender holders to subcontract their tenders. Premier David Mabuza’s declaration that only two or three service providers would be appointed for the scholar transport scheme to cut costs and ensure consistency and good service, is clearly not happening. In fact, under the current approach the department is undoubtedly paying more than necessary for scholar transport, as not only is the tender holder making sufficient profits, but the sub-contracted service providers are also making money from rendering the service. In essence, the department would be better off cutting out the middle-man and contracting service providers directly. The DA therefore calls on MEC Mahlangu to act immediately by ensuring the strike ends at once, failing which the department must make alternative transport arrangements so learners can get to and from school as from Monday. Furthermore, the department must ensure that all subcontractors are paid in full by Habana Trading and simultaneously start making provisions to work directly with bus operators to ensure this scenario does not recur. Denying children access to education is unconstitutional, no matter the context, and government has the responsibility to act against those who do this and lead the way in ensuring this right is met, even in the face of the biggest obstacles.