WC schools project set to sue education dept

2010-06-25 19:40

The Soweto Focus Points (SFP), which shut down following the refusal by the Gauteng department of education to endorse its project, is expected to sue the department to recover R150 million in losses.

In a statement, SFP managing director Channon Merricks accused the

department of landing him into debt when it failed to approve his project to

accommodate backpackers for the ongoing Fifa Soccer World Cup.

The project had earmarked 260 schools around the country. They were

converted into smart, temporary homes for an expected 46 000 soccer spectators.

Merricks was already accommodating about 2 300 people when he finally decided to

call it quits.

His decision followed a letter written by Boy Ngobeni, head of

department in Gauteng, on June 15, which explained that the department

was not in a position to support his initiative.

Merricks said the letter “in essence meant that we could not use

the schools as initially envisaged”.

He said he had entered into contracts with service providers,

purchased equipment and had promised to pay rental fees to schools.

“Numerous senior officials of the department of education have

expressed their appreciation and gratitude (for) the project since it was going

to benefit schools financially and in terms of infrastructure refurbishment,” he


According to Merricks, SFP had initiated legal proceedings to

recover R150 million for alleged “loss of income and costs incurred”, claiming

that the department did not advise him on time about its change of heart.

Charles Phahlane, spokesperson for the education department in

Gauteng, said SFP did not ask for a meeting with the head of the department to

“discuss their project or to ask for authorisation”.

According to Phahlane the school governing bodies were allowed by

the Schools Act to raise funds for their schools but in so doing had to “adhere

to laws and local by-laws including health and safety by-laws”.

The department had written to schools on March 16 warning them

about potential problems if they entered into an agreement to use schools as


Phahlane said SFP only wrote to the department on the “eve of the

World Cup” requesting a letter of support. “We referred them to the letter dated

March 16.

“The truth of the matter is that SFP does not require or need

permission from the department to run this project. Our only concern has been to

ensure that SGBs (school governing bodies) are aware of the potential

liabilities they could face through entering into such agreements and we warned

them accordingly.”

According to him the department had not instructed SFP to stop its

project and neither was it aware of any legal proceedings against it.


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