Probe into destroyed text books

2013-07-25 00:00

DID a company destroy text books it was contracted to deliver to KZN schools to make money off recycled paper, or were the destroyed books surplus to requirements, as the company claims?

Police and Education Department probes will seek to answer these and other questions following the discovery of the books yesterday.

Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said they received a tip from an anonymous source that UTi Distribution was destroying books meant for delivery, and conducted an investigation.

MEC Senzo Mchunu was present when the company was raided and the discovery made. With him were representatives from the Education Department and the police.

On arrival at the company’s Empangeni Rail warehouse, they discovered a room with a shredder and a number of black plastic bags full of shredded text books. More books soaked in buckets of water.

Behind the building were ashes and the remains of books that were recently burnt. The premises were then treated as a crime scene and a case of malicious damage to property opened.

Warehouse manager Flip Maatens said the burnt and shredded books were “excess” books and not meant for delivery. He then locked himself in his office and directed further questions to the company’s Centurion branch.

Gill Jones, director of client solutions at UTi, said the company would release a statement this morning. She said the company had people “listening to the MEC’s message” and that they had been in contact with the police. She said the MEC was “misinformed”.

UTi divisions director Greg Saffy said: “We are conducting an internal investigation into the matter and will provide feedback as soon as we have comprehensive information.”

Mahlambi said he was “deeply saddened” by the discovery.

“We have grown used to hearing of books being dumped in other provinces, but this is the first time I am seeing them being shredded and burnt by people we have entrusted with the future of our children.”

He said the department was still calculating the value of the destroyed books.

In a statement, Mchunu said his suspicions were aroused a while ago when, instead of distributing books directly to schools, UTi decided to leave them at the department’s uThungulu offices for school principals to fetch them themselves.

“We began to investigate and followed leads, which led us to this shocking discovery,” he said.

Mchunu added that some of the books should have been delivered in March. “The matter has been reported to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.”

He insinuated that the shredding and soaking of the books in water was meant for recycling purposes.

“I understand that when the pulp material is sold for recycling, it becomes more expensive than when it is dry. When the manager said the books we found were returned by schools, I asked him which schools and his answer was vague.”

Mchunu said he had identified numeracy and literacy material for grades 1 to 6 and Grade 9, and Grade 12 mathematics work books among the destroyed books, which were to have been delivered to schools in the Empangeni region.

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