Dirk Coetzee lifts the lid on EduSolutions’ dealings
Former police death squad commander and convicted murderer Dirk Coetzee has lifted the lid on the dodgy dealings of EduSolutions, the company contracted by the state to buy and deliver textbooks across South Africa.
The company was thrust to the centre of the textbook storm in Limpopo when Anis Karodia, the former Limpopo education department adminstrator, claimed he was pressured by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to keep using the company despite serious irregularities surrounding the contract.
City Press revealed last week how Motshekga and the Presidency were warned by a whistleblower about serious problems relating to the contract more than a year ago, but appear to have done nothing to act.
Coetzee, who worked as a security consultant for EduSolutions, spoke this week about the host of irregularites he says he discovered.
*He witnessed the hiding of tens of thousands of books which were supposed to be delivered to schools;
*He personally introduced EduSolutions founder Shaun Battlemann to President Jacob Zuma;
*That Battlemann’s business relationship with a former education department director had guaranteed that he got government contracts worth hundreds of millions, and;
*That EduSolutions had powerful influence over education officials in various provinces where they obtained contracts and where there was controversy over undelivered school books.
Coetzee’s key claims were independently confirmed by five other sources. These include business associates, former employees and others with direct knowledge of the company’s affairs.
EduSolutions and others response to this article can be read here.
Coetzee was exposed in 1989 as the commander of a security police unit that was based at Vlakplaas and which tortured and killed anti-apartheid activists.
He left the country and joined the ANC in exile, returning to South Africa in 1993 where he became a senior employee of the National Intelligence Service.
He was eventually convicted of murder, but received amnesty before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Coetzee said that about four years ago he was tipped off about the books in the Gauteng warehouse by a worker at EduSolutions. He said the warehouse was close to the company’s official warehouse in Northriding in Johannesburg.
EduSolutions has contracts in Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
They are paid to purchase and deliver the textbooks to schools around the country and receive a large cut of the millions publishers offer the State in trade discounts – a practice which legal experts say is unlawful.
This week Coetzee recalled finding the hidden books.
“When I opened the door, there were tens of thousands of books,” Coetzee said.
“I afterwards found that 12 truck-and trailer-loads of undelivered books were dumped in this warehouse. And when I talk about trucks, I mean 30-ton vehicles,” he said.
Coetzee’s account was independently verified by three other sources close to EduSolutions who say the delivery systems were a mess and that the government had been routinely provided with fictitious reports claiming 100 per cent delivery.
Coetzee said he had introduced Battlemann to Zuma with whom he had a long standing relationship. Zuma “handled” him when Coetzee left the country to tell expose the Vlakplaas operations.
Coetzee said that Battlemann flew him and several other EduSolutions officials to the Rugby World Cup in France at the end of 2007.
“We were standing outside the stadium drinking beer before one of the first matches when someone shouted my name. It was Zuma, who was also at the World Cup. I introduced him to Battlemann.”
Coetzee said Battlemann got to know Zuma “much better” and had flown in his helicopter to his rural estate at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal to see him.
Battlemann is now a “champion” of the Jacob Zuma Education RDP Trust and is pictured with the President on the umbrella company African Accesss Holdings’ website.
Coetzee said he was introduced to Battlemann by former education department official Salama Hendricks who was then working with Battlemann.
Hendricks has emerged as a key figure in the unfolding education tender saga and is connected to the two major education controversies of the moment.
Hendricks is a co-founder of Lebone Group Holdings and news reports last year said a Lebone sister company – Lebone Litho Printers – won two school workbook tenders worth more than R250m.
The reports pointed out that national education department director general Bobby Soobrayan was at the time engaged to be married to Hendricks’ daughter.
Lebone Litho claimed that Hendricks had no link to their entity.
Coetzee said he got to know Hendricks in the early 2000s while she was Director of Early Childhood Development and Schools at the department.
When she left she started working with Battlemann and was a director of Edu-Logistical Solutions.
Coetzee claimed – and two other EduSolutions sources support it – that Hendricks was key to Battlemann’s success.
“She was central in helping Battleman to get text book contracts from government,” said Coetzee. “She has very high contacts in government.”
?Reporting by Jacques Pauw, Thanduxolo Jika, Jeanne van der Merwe and Charl Du Plessis