Education before Mangaung politics

2012-01-28 11:30

As Bhisho was burning this week, politicians were playing the fiddle, hoping that the Eastern Cape education ­crisis would disappear so they could resume doing more important things.

These important things are, of course, plotting ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in ­Mangaung in December – seemingly the only event at the top of our leaders’ minds this year.

Instead of focusing all the Eastern Cape’s ­resources and energy on immediately fixing the schools’ crisis, the province’s bigwigs – including Premier Noxolo Kiviet – were debating the ­political fallout that would follow the removal of department head Modidima Mannya.

The unions, bolstered by Cosatu boss ­Zwelinzima Vavi, are calling for Mannya’s head, while Kiviet and her lackeys are rallying around him – not because he is competent, but because he is an important player in the sought-after province on the road to Mangaung.

What a shame. The children of the Eastern Cape don’t have books, transport or food, but the man ultimately responsible for their fate is ­clinging to his job because of his influence.

Lest we forget it was President Jacob Zuma himself who reinstated Mannya’s powers last year after he was given the boot by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Motshekga and her deputy, Enver Surty, took over the administration of the department, which had been failing the children of the province for years.

After suspending Mannya, the department and provincial ANC leaders kicked up a fuss and ­Zuma intervened, leading to the reinstatement of a man clearly unfit to do his job.

This week Motshekga reiterated that she would have preferred Mannya to be booted out, but in all likelihood this will not happen. Why? Because he is an important cog in Zuma’s wheel to be ­re-elected ANC president in Mangaung.

The fact that Mannya is still in his job will ­reinforce the view that Zuma is using provincial ­interventions for political gain and not to improve service delivery. How else does one explain ­retaining a man who has just presided over a ­disclaimer audit opinion by the Auditor-General?

In his last audit report, the Auditor-General noted: “Senior management at this department is not committed to addressing basic control issues and instilling financial discipline, which is ­evidenced by the increase in the number of ­findings over the past number of years, leaving the department exposed to fraud and corruption.”

The children of the Eastern Cape are bearing the brunt of years of maladministration by Mannya and his predecessors. Letting him go would be a good first step towards cleaning up this mess.

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