The DA has written to the Basic Education Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Nomalungelo Gina, to summon State Security Minister, David Mahlobo, to explain how his department knew about the protests in Vuwani a year before they happened, but opted not to act on the intelligence to try and prevent the subsequent crisis.
Children in Vuwani were denied access to education from the first half of May last year and most could not return to schools until the beginning of August as a result of the protests and were thus deprived of their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Learners were prevented from going to school again in April this year, when more schools were burned and nearly 30 000 pupils were affected by the shutdown. The least Minister Mahlobo could have done was to brief Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, on any developments that were projected to affect learning in the area and posed threats to learners in order to minimise the damage caused by the protests. It is imperative that the Minister be summoned before the Education committee so that we can get to the bottom of this situation.
In reply to DA Parliamentary Questions from June 2016 it was revealed that 20 schools were damaged during the violent protests, with a total of 79 classrooms burnt and a further 13 vandalised. There were 1 805 desks destroyed, along with surplus textbooks, stationery and school records.
Minister Mahlobo must appear before Portfolio Committee on Education which is open to the public and not the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence which is a closed committee. The Vuwani protests had a major impact on people in the community and an open committee sitting, to which the committees on Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs and Police should also be invited to attend, will ensure that the Minister is held accountable.
Access to education, especially for the poor, is something the DA takes seriously as it is necessary for entry into the job market as such, we cannot accept any hindrance to learning. Mahlobo’s utterances paint a grim picture of the state of national security and he must account to the people for his failings.