Unpaid contractors stop distribution of learning material

Edward Maahlamela

Edward Maahlamela

Pupils in Limpopo are faced with a bleak academic future because the provincial Education Department has failed to pay the companies contracted to distribute textbooks and stationery to schools.

The contractors stopped distributing in November when, they say, the department failed to release their payments.

According to contractors who spoke to Sowetan on condition of anonymity yesterday, the department had changed the distribution system used by its former head, Harry Nengwekhulu.

One contractor said: "We've not received payments since November, but the department still needs textbooks to be distributed to schools."

Another contractor said: "We are being exploited by the department. They called us this week and threatened to use their own trucks and to blacklist us if we did not carry on with the distribution.

"I have received R15000 [from the department] instead of R40000. And it appears it will take ages before they will make another payment.

"We get only R4 a kilometer [for delivering] and they don't pay our drivers or the people who count the textbooks."

Another contractor toldSowetan that textbooks were still lying in a warehouse in Sibasa, near Thohoyandou.

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union said it had been disappointed to learn that textbooks had not been distributed to schools.

"The department assured us last year that all textbooks had been delivered to the schools. We were shocked when contractors complained to us that they had not been paid," said the union's provincial secretary, George Mudumela.

Mudumela said the department's action would have a negative effect on grade 9 and 11 pupils, who were supposed to start studying the new curriculum but could not because they had no textbooks.

He said the department had lied to the union when it claimed that only 33 schools had not received their textbooks.

Mudumela said that the new head of the Education Department, Zwo Nevhutalu, had promised to investigate the dispute with the distributors.