gde sued for r126m

THE Fifa 2010 "cash cow" fiasco has now landed at he door of the Gauteng department of education (GDE) with a R126 million lawsuit dangling over it.

THE Fifa 2010 "cash cow" fiasco has now landed at he door of the Gauteng department of education (GDE) with a R126 million lawsuit dangling over it.

Disgruntled entrepreneur and initiator of the failed Soweto Focus Point (SFP), Channon Merrick, is determined to get his own back from the GDE. Merrick is accusing the authorities of spoiling his plan to cash in on the World Cup.

Merrick had approached several school governing bodies across the province with a proposal to convert classrooms into backpacker's accommodation. This was to house throngs of tourists for the Fifa World Cup.

His plans went awry when the anticipated tourists failed to arrive.

He has also blamed Fifa for "lying to me" about the expected number of tourists. He said his company converted classrooms into accommodation facilities, spending about R7000 to renovate each at 130 schools.

This week the GDE received a letter of demand for R126million from Merrick. But the department has rejected his claims, saying it had only warned school management to be wary of such propositions.

Merrick blamed the education department for the accommodation crisis.

"District heads have now changed their tune and say they do not want anything to do with the project," he said.

Last week Sowetan ran a story that Merrick had to face 250 investors who had paid a minimum R100000 for a slice of the anticipated 2010 World Cup bonanza.

GDE spokesperson Charles Phahlane said in March the department discovered that the SFP was entering into agreements with SGB's to use schools as holiday accommodation for the World Cup.

"At no stage did the SFP request a meeting with the accounting officer of the department to discuss their project or to ask for authorisation," Phahlane said.

He said the School's Act makes provision for SGB's to raise funds to supplement resources. But the failure of a business venture falls on the SGB and not the department.

National association of schools governing bodies chairperson Mahlomola Kekana asked: "Why is he including the department in this?"

X