Ul­ti­ma­tum given on school’s toi­lets

The Herald (South Africa) - - NEWS - Odette Parfitt parfitto@ti­soblack­star.co.za

THE South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (SAHRC) has is­sued an ul­ti­ma­tum to the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to pay nearly R2-mil­lion owed to a con­trac­tor re­spon­si­ble for build­ing ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties at a Port El­iz­a­beth school.

A year af­ter a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the com­mis­sion vis­ited Zanox­olo Public Pri­mary School in Mother­well and saw the ap­palling con­di­tions of the bath­rooms, nearly 1 000 pupils still use the tem­po­rary toi­lets pro­vided while con­struc­tion is on­go­ing.

The toi­lets – with bro­ken basins, no toi­let paper and a strong stench – were also a vi­o­la­tion of the pupils’ rights, com­mis­sioner An­dre Gaum found on his fol­low-up visit to the school yes­ter­day.

“We are not going to al­low the project to stand still for an­other two or three months,” Gaum told a meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the school, the de­part­ment, the Coega De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (CDC), which is man­ag­ing the project on behalf of the de­part­ment, and Omega Build­ing, the con­trac­tor.

“It is a hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion and an on­slaught on hu­man dig­nity.”

When the com­mis­sion vis­ited the school in Septem­ber last year and dis­cov­ered bath­rooms that posed a health haz­ard to pupils, Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Mandla Makupula promised to fund new bath­rooms for the no-fee school.

How­ever, by yes­ter­day only about 25% of the project had been com­pleted, largely due to the de­part­ment not pay­ing the con­trac­tor, CDC project man­ager Vuy­ol­wethu Tongo said.

“We had a huge de­lay around SMME par­tic­i­pa­tion and sub­stan­dard un­der­ground ma­te­ri­als in the old ablu­tion blocks, but the main prob­lem from day one has been the pay­ment of con­trac­tors,” Tongo said.

“The con­trac­tor has been on site the last seven months and has only been paid twice.

“The con­trac­tor can still fin­ish within six weeks [of pay­ment], but we could have fin­ished it [long ago] if not for th­ese prob­lems.”

Snenhlahla Dlamini, chief works in­spec­tor from the de­part­ment’s district of­fice, apol­o­gised for the de­lay in pay­ments but could not of­fer an ex­pla­na­tion.

Gaum in­structed Dlamini to contact the head of­fice and en­sure that it paid the money owed to Omega by close of busi­ness to­day.

“If the de­part­ment does not re­spond, the con­se­quences will be huge,” he said.

“If their un­der­tak­ings are not hon­oured, we will have to sub­poena the MEC.”

Gov­ern­ing body chair­man Them­bek­ile Jonga wel­comed the com­mis­sion’s stance.

De­part­ment spokesman Mali Mtima said they were hav­ing a se­ries of meet­ings with stakeholders in­volved with con­struc­tion at var­i­ous schools in the metro to iron out is­sues with pay­ment.

Pic­tures: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

STOP­GAP SO­LU­TION: A pupil walks past the tem­po­rary toi­lets at Zanox­olo Public Pri­mary School yes­ter­day

TOUGH TALK: SAHRC com­mis­sioner An­dre Gaum and Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment pro­vin­cial man­ager Abongile Sipondo

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