Textbooks: Vlakplaas man speaks

Johannesburg - Apartheid-era Vlakplaas police death squad commander and convicted murderer Dirk Coetzee has lifted the lid on how EduSolutions, the firm contracted by the state to buy and deliver textbooks across South Africa, does its business.

Coetzee worked for EduSolutions as a security consultant and has made a host of revelations.

According to him:

» He saw books being hidden instead of sent to schools;
» He personally introduced EduSolutions founder Shaun Battlemann to President Jacob Zuma;
» Battlemann’s business relationship with a former education department director guaranteed lucrative government contracts; and
» EduSolutions had powerful influence over education officials in various provinces.

EduSolutions has contracts to purchase and deliver textbooks to schools in Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

Anis Karodia, the former Limpopo education department administrator, claimed he was pressured by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to keep using this company despite serious contractual irregularities.

Coetzee’s key claims have been independently confirmed by five other sources, including business associates, former employees and others with direct knowledge of EduSolutions’ affairs.

Coetzee was exposed in 1989 as the commander of a security police unit.

He left the country and joined the ANC in exile, returning in 1993 to work for the National Intelligence Service.

Convicted of murder, he received amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Coetzee earlier recalled finding “tens of thousands” of textbooks hidden in a Gauteng warehouse four years ago.

He said he was tipped off by an EduSolutions employee. The warehouse was close to the company’s official warehouse in Northriding, Johannesburg.

“Twelve truck and trailer loads of undelivered books were dumped in this warehouse. And when I talk about trucks, I mean 30 ton vehicles.”

Three other EduSolutions sources confirm that the delivery systems were a mess and that government was ¬routinely provided with false reports of 100% delivery.

Coetzee said he introduced Battlemann to Zuma.

Zuma “handled” Coetzee after he left the  country and changed sides.

Coetzee said Battlemann flew him and other EduSolutions officials to France’s 2007 Rugby World Cup.

“We were standing outside the stadium drinking beer before one of the first matches when someone shouted my name. It was Zuma. I introduced him to Battlemann.”

Coetzee said Battlemann got to know Zuma “much better” and flew in his helicopter to the president’s rural estate at Nkandla.

Battlemann “champions” the Jacob Zuma Education RDP Trust.

Coetzee met Battlemann through the education department’s Salama Hendricks, who had worked with him.

Hendricks is linked to another big education controversy, as co-founder of Lebone Group Holdings.

Last year, reports said Lebone’s sister firm, Lebone Litho Printers, won school workbook tenders worth R250m.

The printers claimed to have no link with Hendricks.

National education department director general Bobby Soobrayan was at the time engaged to be married to Hendricks’ daughter.

Coetzee said he met Hendricks while she was director of Early Childhood Development and Schools.

She left to work with Battlemann and was a director of Edu-Logistical Solutions.

Coetzee said: “She was central in helping Battlemann to get textbook contracts. She has very high contacts in government.”

EduSolutions responds

EduSolutions confirmed on Saturday that Dirk Coetzee had been employed by the company and that he introduced company founder Shaun Battlemann to President Jacob Zuma in 2007.

However, it denied any impropriety.

“Coetzee was the group risk head and if he had uncovered any wrongdoing whatsoever he had all the opportunity in the world to bring it to the attention of the authorities. We take serious issue with the allegations you allege Coetzee has made,” said Ian Small-Smith, a lawyer for EduSolutions.

He confirmed Salama Hendricks was an “ex-employee”, but offered no details.

He denied that Battlemann had flown to Nkandla by helicopter to meet Zuma, saying Battlemann did not “own a helicopter”.

Battlemann had met Zuma on matters relating to the president’s charitable trust “always in the presence of the chairperson of the trust, Sizwe Shezi”, Small-Smith said.

Department of Basic Education

A department of basic education spokesperson said that EduSolutions was appointed in Gauteng when Angie Motshekga was MEC for social development and that when the contract was renewed, it was handled by Gauteng Shared Services, which reported to the provincial finance department and not the education ministry.

Other questions were referred to the Gauteng education ministry.

Soobrayan and Lebone

Basic Education director-general Bobby Soobrayan denied any improper relationship with Salama Hendricks, but confirmed he had been in a relationship with her daughter, Fatima, which he says he ended in April last year.

He said he became aware of her former employment at EduSolutions only after starting his relationship with her daughter.

“I’m not aware of whether she may have assisted EduSolutions to obtain tenders,” he said, adding this had occurred before he became director general.

He said: “EduSolutions does not and has never had a contract with the department of basic education or any other institution over which I had/have direct control. We are open to a full and thorough investigation of the tender process by a competent state authority.”

Keith Michael, an owner of Lebone Group and Lebone Litho Printers, would not provide City Press with contact details for Salama Hendricks.

He said: “(She) is not involved with EduSolutions; she’s involved with Lebone and Lebone Group Holdings, not Lebone Litho Printers.”

He claimed Lebone Holdings was closed following “underhanded dealings” involving a partner.

Records show Hendricks was a director of Edu-Logistical Solutions, along with Battlemann.

“She has not done consultancy work for Lebone Litho, she comes in from time to time to do the other company’s work,” Michael said.

Lebone Litho is a joint venture with Paarl Media, a Media24 company.

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