Buses for pupils suspended after state fails to pay R400m

2014-10-16 15:34

Mpumalanga’s scholar transport association has suspended its operations and will not be ferrying pupils to schools because the education department allegedly owes it R400 million.

“We suspended operations. We put our buses in the depot and we are staying at home. But I want to make it clear that we are not on strike and we are not associated with any demonstration,” the association’s spokesperson Koos Nkosi said today.

“We can’t afford to send our buses for services, we can’t pay for fuel and we can’t pay our staff.”

He said the department owed it R400 million, which had escalated since 2006.

The association consisted of about 400 bus owners, each owning a varying number of buses, and each bus transporting 65 pupils to school.

Nkosi said the suspension of operations affected thousands of school pupils across the province.

“They [the department] have always been showering us with promises. We were told that the money was budgeted for to pay the debt, but we are left in the dark as to why we are not paid,” he said.

A meeting was held on September 9 with department officials and Nkosi was told they were waiting for a report from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) before payment could be made.

“They verified the amount and the reasons they gave to us in the last meeting was that they are waiting for a report from the SIU after a commission was set up to deal with alleged corruption in the department of education.”

He said the commission was established in 2012 by the previous premier to deal with corruption.

The association suspended its operations at the end of September.

Provincial education department spokesperson Jasper Zwane referred queries to David Nkambule, spokesperson for the public works and transport department.

Repeated attempts to reach Nkambule were unsuccessful.

Democratic Alliance MPL Anthony Benadie said the DA was disturbed by the reports and called on the department of education and provincial treasury to intervene immediately and settle the debt.

“Schoolchildren cannot and must not miss a single day of learning in the run-up to the Grade 12 examinations, and all buses must get back on the road as a matter of urgency,” he said.

“No learner should be disadvantaged due to the department’s inability to manage their affairs, especially at this critical time of the academic year.”

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