KZN feeding scheme battle intensifies

2017-07-31 13:39
2.2 million indigent pupils are catered for by the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

2.2 million indigent pupils are catered for by the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). (File)

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As the legal battle over the KwaZulu-Natal schools feeding scheme contracts intensifies, the Education Department on Sunday vowed to clamp down on service providers allegedly planning to take the fight onto school premises.

“We will definitely not hesitate to deploy police to schools if certain individuals acting on the misguided belief that they have the right to disrupt the provision of education, create chaos,” provincial Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said.

This as the department prepares to lodge court papers today in an attempt to overturn last week’s Pietermaritzburg high court ruling barring the department’s newly appointed service providers from operating pending a final decision.

The court had ordered that current service providers, whose contracts expired last month, be allowed to continue feeding pupils pending the outcome of the court case.

However, some of the new service providers yesterday told The Witness they intend to go to schools today and feed pupils.

“We have been appointed by the department and we have already spent a lot of money on food and other items required for the job we have been asked to do.

“As you would know the bulk of the food items for feeding pupils is perishable. Who will refund us the money we have already invested?” a provider appointed to feed pupils at a school in Sobantu asked.

However, the organisation representing some of the current service providers, Delangokubona Business Forum (one of those who went to court) has urged the service providers to report to the schools they had been servicing.

“We know that certain individuals might want to cause trouble by going to school[s] despite the court order making it clear that it is only the old service providers that should be there.

“We have already communicated to our members as well as other operators challenging the department’s appointment of new suppliers that they should continue operating,” the forum’s general secretary Thulani Myeza said.

The department in March announced new service providers for the province’s R1,4 billion per annum National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) which caters for the province’s 2,2 million indigent pupils.

However, the forum is alleging in amongst other things that rules were flouted during the tender process.

“We have since discovered that some of the companies which the department has appointed are owned by government officials, including councillors.

“Some of the companies were registered after the tender application closing date while others were not registered at all — we have attached the evidence on our court papers and hence the court’s decision to bar the department’s new service providers from resuming work,” Myeza said.

However, Mthethwa denied there had been any tender irregularities.

“The court order was made without the department’s input — we were not given the opportunity to state our case. We will be filing court papers tomorrow [today] challenging the court order as we believe that all processes were followed during the appointment of the providers which the court has ordered should not resume work,” he said.

The row between the department and the disgruntled service providers has already resulted in pupils in some of the province’s impoverished schools not being fed.

Parents in some Pietermaritzburg schools where the scheme is run on Sunday expressed concerns about the current situation.

“As parents we were struggling to get answers around who exactly will be feeding the children. Last week a good Samaritan stepped in and fed the kids but we do not know what will happen from tomorrow [today]”, Gugu Sengwayo, chairperson of Imbali’s Fezokuhle Primary School governing body said.

Delangokubona Business Forum, which was launched in Durban’s Umlazi­ township a few years ago but now has branches across the province, has been previously accused of using violence to force government to allocate tenders to the organisation’s members.

However, Myeza has denied the organisation had used violence to bag tenders.

“We are not a violent organisation, it is people who want to silence us that accuse us of violence. All we are asking for is for the government to do things the right way,” he said.

The cost of the nutrition programe per annum is R1,4 billion, and there are 5 250 schools falling under the programme. The number of pupils affected is 2,2 million.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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