Premier apologises for Limpopo’s schoolbook crisis
Embattled Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has apologised for the failure to distribute textbooks, but warned this should not be used as a pretext to accelerate a campaign to remove him.
The same issue – the textbook scandal – was used to topple his predecessor, Cassel Mathale.
Last month, problems with textbooks and learner-teacher support materials were reported in the Capricorn and Vhembe districts in the province.
“I wish to extend my sincere words of apology for our failure to distribute learning materials and textbooks on time,” Mathabatha told City Press in an interview this week.
He said that he had received a detailed report on this matter from the MEC for education in the province and directed that a detailed plan be developed and presented to the provincial executive committee for adoption “so that we avoid a repeat of this unacceptable occurrence”.
Among the chief proponents of the campaign to remove Mathabatha from office is the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), which had accused him of taking the province backwards. The league also claimed that he ignored the interests of young people.
However, Mathabatha said calls for him to step down undermined decisions of the ANC, including on deployment matters.
“We therefore expect the ANCYL to raise its concerns within the internal structures of the ANC,” he said.
Do you live in Limpopo? Are you or your child affected by the books shortage?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword BOOKS and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50
He said: “The allegation that I was regressing the province is the most sarcastic, dishonest and ahistorical assessment regarding the overall performance of the province.
“I came into office because of a prevalence of maladministration and financial mismanagement.
“The provincial budget went into a deficit, which ultimately propelled Cabinet to put five provincial departments under administration, including the provincial treasury.
“In essence, putting the provincial treasury under administration had essentially meant the entire province was affected,” said Mathabatha.
He said his leadership “put measures in place to deal with these challenges [and] the provincial fiscal situation is currently in good condition; we are no longer under the national administration”.
Since 2015, he said, “we have improved on the provision of basic services to communities, including on health services, roads infrastructure, electricity and water”.
He said some of the outstanding “serious challenges” included the provision of quality education, but “a solid foundation for improvement” was in place.
He said almost all heads of department had been appointed, except the head of department of sport, arts and culture.
A selection process for the department of sport, arts and culture would be completed before the end of March, Mathabatha said.
He said overall audit outcomes for the 2015-16 financial years were “static” as the number of unqualified audit opinions stood at 66%.
He said Limpopo had regained its institutional capacity to facilitate poverty reduction and economic development.
There was, however, “a nihilistic tendency to undermine qualitative progress made since the withdrawal of the national intervention”.
“Some of these allegations are based on exaggerating our subjective weaknesses, while nullifying our achievements,” he said.
Mathabatha said at least two MECs in his provincial executive were “recent graduates of the Progressive Youth Alliance, including the ANCYL”.
On the ANC’s upcoming succession race later in December, he said the focus on gender classification as the criteria to choose President Jacob Zuma’s successor was misplaced because it is not a requirement to be president of ANC.
Mathabatha also dismissed reports that Limpopo would be backing deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma.