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‘We want answers!’: Residents demand full investigation into illegal sand mining at school

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The remnants of what would have been soccer field at Northpine High School, is now part of a sand quarry that was overmined. Ten years after the school opened learners still don’t have sport facilities. PHOTO: Desirée Rorke
The remnants of what would have been soccer field at Northpine High School, is now part of a sand quarry that was overmined. Ten years after the school opened learners still don’t have sport facilities. PHOTO: Desirée Rorke

The community of Northpine is demanding a full investigation into the debacle of the illegal sand mining at Northpine Technical High School and the promised sports grounds that never came to be.

A massive overgrown sand crater of about 1.2 hectares is all the remains in the backyard of the school where a soccer field and athletics track was supposed to be constructed.

In 2019 the school, without the approval of the provincial education department, bartered a deal with a sports turf company.

The company was to convert the sandy site into sports grounds in return for the value of the sand they mined on the site.

They had grand plans.

The school was to receive R12.50 for every cubic metre of soil mined. This income would be used to level and grass the grounds without money changing hands.

Development questioned

The department only became aware of the project in July 2020 when external auditors questioned the development and after an inspection found that the site was over-mined and not in a condition to be developed.

The school was instructed to restore the site to a condition suitable to build on and advised to re-apply for the development of the grounds after the land was restored.

In the light of these developments, all progress related to the development was halted. The school drew up an application for the sports field and documentation (not signed by the SGB) was sent to the department.

Then minister Debbie Schäfer stated that she could not grant the request as the SGB did not sign the documents and requested a new application.

Fast forward five months later and nobody is any the wiser, according to Fred Jochems of the Northpine Community Forum.

calling for an investigation

Members of the forum met on Saturday morning to discuss the issue.

“Where is the school governing body, where is the education department? This school is a community asset and although we know we will never get the soil back the sport fields have to be developed. Only a layer of gravel was strewn in the crater and no proper rehabilitation has taken place as yet. As a community we have to do something,” he says.

According to Jochems a total of 10 000 cubit metres of sand were removed in 2019.

“We watched with horror when truck after truck started driving in and out of the school with the loads of sand being mined on the site. Money never changed hands and no construction took place” he said. This according to him constituted serious irregularities as the provincial education department never approved the project.

“All we have is a hole in the ground. Why aren’t we getting feedback from the department, or the school governing body,” he asked.

“All the previous SGB members resigned as did the previous school principal and nobody knows whereto from here. In a September meeting with the present acting principal Dr AV Bleazard, she conceded that irregularities were present in the deal but more than that she could not tell us,” says Jochems.

Spokesperson for the education department Millicent Merton says there has been attempts to recover the money from the company in question to build the field. “However, this has not materialised and this matter has been referred to legal services for their investigation,” she says.

TygerBurger could not reach the said company for comment.

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