‘Pay us our R400m or pupils won’t get to school’

2015-02-16 16:17

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Mbombela - Mpumalanga scholar transport operators are threatening to strike if the government does not pay them the R400m they say they it owes them.

According to the City Press the operators claim that the provincial department of public works, roads and transport and Habana Trading – a company that was awarded a R500m tender to manage scholar transport in Gert Sibande region around Ermelo – have not been paying them.

Habana was hired in 2011 to buy its own buses, which would be handed over to school governing bodies at the end of their contract, but has kept on using individual operators because it did not have enough buses to carry on with the job.

Mpumalanga Scholar Transport Operators secretary, Bridget Monareng, said the debt accumulated since 2010, when the scholar transport programme was moved from the education department to public works, roads and transport.

“We have tried everything to talk to the government. Education owes us, public works owes us and now Habana is also owing us,” Monareng said.

The organisation wanted to meet Premier David Mabuza last Thursday but he did not pitch up, so the transporters threatened to withdraw their buses and shut down the N4 and N17 national roads.

They also called on Mabuza to step down and threatened to discourage their family members and communities from voting for the ANC in the upcoming local government elections.

Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, said Mabuza could not attend the meeting last week because he had to travel to Cape Town for the State of the Nation address.

“The premier will not run away from them and will meet them when his schedule permits,” Mncwango said.

Mpumalanga education spokesperson Jasper Zwane referred questions to public works, roads and transport.

But Mpumalanga public works, roads and transport spokesperson, David Nkambule, said: “The department took over the scholar transport function in August 2009 and all claims received were processed, verified and paid.”

Habana’s three directors – Wesley Tendaupenya, Suliman Paruk and Vulani Mabunda – did not return voice and text messages left on their phones.

Replacements

The province’s management caused an outcry when it was decided that they would stop hiring 200 operators in the Gert Sibande region and replaced them with Habana.

The operators complained that Habana’s directors were “outsiders” and questioned why the government sacrificed the livelihood of so many people to benefit three individuals.

Habana was not able to buy the buses outright and continued using the operators that were hired all along.

In 2013, the company was finally able to buy 96 new buses worth R118m.

Mabuza started making changes after a commission of inquiry was appointed to probe scholar transport corruption in 2009 because costs had escalated from R8.2m to R354m in nine years.

Mabuza moved the programme from the education department to public works, roads and transport.

In the Ehlanzeni North region around Bushbuckridge, the tender was awarded to Pretoria-based Tshawe Infrastructure Technologies for 31 routes, while in Nkangala and Ehlanzeni South, local transport operators were kept.

 

Read more on:    mbombela  |  strikes  |  education  |  transport

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