Angie lays down the law

Zandile Mbabela, Msindisi Fengu and Zine George 

LAYING down the law yesterday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga took full control of the troubled Eastern Cape Education Department, saying the decision would be reversed only when the province achieved a 70% matric pass rate.

Announcing that she had appointed a three-man intervention team to run the provincial department until it could handle its own affairs properly, Motshekga said there was no ambiguity about the running of the department.

“We cannot have two bulls [in one kraal] again.”

If senior managers wanted their powers back, they would have to abide by her conditions.

“They must meet the 70% matric pass rate. They must keep a clean audit, must deal with stability.”

The Eastern Cape was the worst performer last year with a 58.1% pass rate – falling short of premier Noxolo Kiviet’s 60% target.

Motshekga – who arrived in the province two days ago to meet with provincial heads on the future of the ailing department – said they had adopted a more hands-on approach after challenges encountered last year when they were merely overseeing things.

This full implementation of the Section 100 (1)(b) intervention comes days after controversial education superintendent-general Modidima Mannya – who was accused of stonewalling the national intervention team – threw in the towel due to mounting pressure “from all sides” to step down.

Motshekga and Mannya have had numerous public spats, in which the minister expressed difficulty in penetrating the provincial department to effectively implement the national intervention because of Mannya.

But Motshekga cleared the air yesterday, saying her tensions with Mannya were not because he had refused to do the work, but clashes over who was in charge.

“It was personality issues, really, and we were unable to work nicely together with regard to the implementation of the intervention. The difficulties, however, were beyond Mannya. It was not just him, but some senior managers as well.

“Now we want recommitment from everyone and we want to stress that there is renewed and unequivocal commitment to a shared vision of quality education in the province.”

The cabinet gave Motshekga powers to run the department in March last year, but the national and provincial department were at loggerheads over who should be running the show.

The cabinet reaffirmed its position last week and ordered Motshekga to take full control of the provincial department.

Motshekga said she had discussed the matter with Kiviet and the provincial department’s executive management.

The two met on Tuesday night and Motshekga outlined what was expected from the province.

Education MEC Mandla Makupula confirmed yesterday that Cofimvaba district manager Mthunywa Ngonzo would act until a replacement for Mannya was appointed.

Motshekga said she had no doubts about his capabilities.

“I haven’t worked closely with him before so I don’t know him very well, but I’ve heard nothing negative about him.”

The full takeover would see a three-man intervention team stationed in the province to “double up the speed and the effort” to fix the department, she said.

The team comprises former Mpumalanga education department head Ray Tywakadi, national education department chief financial officer Phillip Benade and Limpopo education department intervention head Dr Anis Karodia.

“The team, led by Tywakadi, will give impetus to the current turnaround strategy and identify existing delays and speed them up,” Motshekga said.

“What we’ve basically done now is to reinforce and bring more resources to get things on track in the Eastern Cape because unfortunately the school year goes by quickly and we can’t lose any more time.

“The province itself has done its best, but the problems are far deeper and need special attention and expertise.” Motshekga said the team would implement cabinet decisions and work closely with the five-a-side team of ministers and provincial MECs in the education, treasury, justice and public service departments.

Their main focus, as per agreement with Makupula, were the key problem areas, namely:

lThe management of financial systems;

lHuman resources problems, with specific reference to addressing the issue of excess teachers;

lThe huge infrastructure backlog;

lPupil attainment strategy as the province is performing “below its potential”;

lPupil transport and the school nutrition programmes; and

lProvision of stationery and teacher deployment.

Motshekga and her team will be back in the province in two weeks to get a progress report.

Makupula confirmed that the three would be working with Ngonzo.

“We’ve dealt with what will be the roles of the spheres of government,” he said.

“I think both of us, the national and provincial departments, have resolved that this has to work.

“We are committed to making it work.”

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