TrichardtFontein School Remains Closed: Who is in charge of Mpumalanga Education?

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Spokesperson on Education

Note: Members Statement by Anthony Benadie DA MPL, on 12 August 2014, on the closing of the Trichardtfontein Combined School.

Hon Speaker

I rise to deliver a members statement on behalf of the Democratic Alliance.

It emerged yesterday, that approximately 200 learners from the Trichardfontein School in the Govan Mbeki Municipality have been locked out of their school for the past two weeks, after the Department of Education failed to pay rent to the landlord where the school is built.

It is reported Hon Speaker, that the department of education has not paid the farm owner rent since 2012 and owes him an approximate R3,5 million, which has subsequently forced the land owner to approach a court of law to force the department to fulfil its financial obligations.

Upon hearing about this very unfortunate incident, I called Hon MEC Mhaule to enquire whether the department was acting on this crisis.

Hon Speaker, the MEC assured me that the department was addressing the matter and in fact stated that she had instructed the district on Friday to ensure all outstanding money was paid.

Despite this assurance, and despite a protest by the learners at the Provincial Government offices yesterday, the Trichardtfontein combined school remains closed today and based on information received, no payments have been made to the land owner.

Hon Speaker, we simply cannot allow the constitutional rights of our learners to be compromised by a dispute between the department and its landlords, because of the inability of the department to pay its debts.

Hon MEC, yesterday you assured me the matter is being dealt with, today we saw the school remained closed and no payments have been made, which begs the question, who is in charge of this department? Are your officials blatantly ignoring your political instructions and are they undermining your efforts to solve this problem or what exactly is going on?

The DA urges you MEC, to take a firm stance on this matter, to ensure that the outstanding rent is paid with immediate effect, to ensure the school is immediately reopened, and that you take this matter a step further to investigate who is responsible for the non-payment, to hold those official accountable including those who ignored your instructions, and that measures be put in place to support the school and its learners in catching up on the lost education time.

I thank you