EduSolutions: What Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga knew
by Thanduxolo Jika and jeanne van der Merwe
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s lies have snowballed in the face of evidence that she knew details more than a year ago of a controversial textbook tender which is now at the centre of Limpopo’s education crisis.
And not only did the Education Minister know, but so did the Presidency, which was informed of it more than six months before Motshekga.
Media24 Investigations has detailed proof that Motshekga was told of the huge problems with the textbook procurement tender worth hundreds of millions which was given to EduSolutions.
Had she acted on the knowledge and terminated the contract when she was told of the problems the state would have had ample time to find new contractors to deliver books.
Instead the contract with EduSolutions was only cut at the end of April, leaving the State scrambling to provide material to pupils nearly halfway through the school year.
Her first lie came last week when she blamed former Limpopo education administrator Anis Karodia for the mess and said she had fired him because of it.
But he hit back saying the minister had pressurised him to keep the business with EduSolutions. The minister had also written glowingly of him thanking him for his work in the province.
Lie two came on John Robbie’s show on 702 this week when Robbie asked her about Solly Tshitangano, the former acting chief financial officer of Limpopo’s education department, who blew the whistle on the EduSolutions deal.
Robbie asked: “Solly Tshitangano… now he raised concerns about this. Was he the first person to raise concerns about this because he got fired didn’t he?”
The Minister responded: “No I don’t know the name, not at all”
But Media24 Investigations has copies of correspondence from Tshitangano and the Minister’s office beginning on June 5 last year. He sent her detailed evidence of the problems with EduSolutions and followed it up with further correspondence.
On July 5, 2011, an official in her office replied to him and said: “Mrs A Motshekga, MP, Minister for Basic Education has requested me to thank you for your letter. The matter is receiving attention”.
By last December Tshitangano – who was fired after he raised the red flags – was still trying to find out from her office what they were doing.
Not only did the Minister know about the problems then but she was also told again in January this year in a legal opinion for the state which advised the government to get out of the deal – and which featured Tshitangano’s name prominently.
Instead of terminating the contract Motshekga delayed and met with EduSolutions in April without Karodia being present. EduSolutions say they simply met with the Minister to seek clarity on issues in Limpopo and to offer assistance.
But Karodia told M24i this week that he had not been aware of the details of that meeting.
“This is why I said this raised serious concerns because as head of administration I was not made aware of these meetings,” he said.
Motshekga’s apparent reluctance to move against EduSolutions and the resulting crisis in Limpopo has fuelled calls for her resignation – and questions about her own relationship with the company.
Repeated requests to the Basic Education Department for comment went unanswered.
But the Presidency also has questions to answer.
In January 2011 – 18 months before the current crisis – Tshitangano approached the Presidency with his dossier of evidence and allegations.
Nine months later in August 2011, Eugene Mthethwa, Deputy Director: Public Liason and Presidential Hotline, wrote back to him “on behalf of the President” thanking him and saying the matter was receiving their “utmost attention”. But Tshitangano heard no more.
Shaun Battlemann, EduSolutions co-founder and a director of parent company African Access Holdings, is a “Champion” of the Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust and the company website shows him proudly posing with the President.
The Trust did not respond to questions this week.
Tshitangano this week said that had his warnings been acted on today’s Limpopo crisis could have been averted.
“The worrying issue is that the department is arguing in the Labour Court against me that the contract is valid but in the High Court against EduSolutions they are saying it is invalid. Who must we believe?” he said.
“They are wasting government money. Instead of using it to better the lives of the children they are using it to fight me… But I have played my part,” said Tshitangano