A high-powered delegation of the NLC visited the school on Tuesday, meeting with SGB members and Department of Education representatives.
The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) hit back on Tuesday, saying that no structural damage was prevalent at the Vhafamadi school in Vuwani and that the school was not “falling apart” as some media outlets reported.
The NLC sent a high-powered delegation, which included the chief operations officer, Mr Phillemon Letwaba, to visit the Mashau-based school on Tuesday morning. The visit followed after media reports the past week that focused on the problems at the school and questioned how the R28,3 million to rebuild the school had been channelled and spent.
The delegation held a meeting with some of the stakeholders, which included the school’s governing body and representatives from the Department of Education, before allowing members of the media to join them in inspecting the school buildings.
Very noticeable was that one of the key stakeholders, Mr Azwinndini Simba, whose NPO was used to channel the funds, was not present.
Speaking during the visit, Letwaba said the NLC’s intervention had followed the riots that had left more than 20 schools torched in the Vuwani area, of which Vhafamadi Secondary was one. He said the funding had been used to demolish the burnt school and to construct new classrooms, a library, administration block, a computer centre and kitchen facilities. The school was handed over in December 2016.
“As part of the NLC funding process, monitoring and evaluation activities followed, resulting in the identification of cracks and documentation of concerns raised by the officials at the school. The NLC subsequently appointed an engineering company, T2 Tech Consulting Engineers, to fully investigate the issues and conduct an assessment,” he said.
Letwaba said a full report, including an assessment relating to costs of repairs, was submitted by the appointed engineers. “One of the key findings is the fact that the challenges identified do not affect the integrity of the structure, but rather defects that can be remedied,” he said. He added that the NLC had engaged the implementer of the project to discuss remedial work to be undertaken to deal with all the identified defects and shortcomings which are underway.
Briefing members of the media during the visit at the school, Letwaba denied allegations that the school was falling apart. He described the allegations reported in the media as mere speculation and unbalanced. He accused the Limpopo Mirror of being biased and publishing wrong information.
“It is lucky that you are also here. You have seen for yourselves that the situation is not as reported,” said Letwaba. Letwaba also insulted the journalists involved and said “anybody who is hungry will come and write a story that is not credible.”
But when the delegation moved around some of the buildings with members of the media, visible cracks were apparent on some of the buildings. The school management refused to open the computer lab, saying that they could not find keys to the computer block. The block is alleged to be one of the problem areas and is falling apart.
When asked about the locked block, Letwaba said they had seen the inside of the block through the windows. Letwaba was also questioned about the missing “science lab”. He said that the NLC would follow up on this as the equipment needed to be supplied by another contractor.
Letwaba was asked if a competitive bidding process had been followed when appointing contractors. He answered that no bidding process had taken place as it was a grant. “The organisation has the prerogative to appoint any service provider. We are not responsible for the service provider,” Letwaba said.
When asked why he had not attended the inspection, Mr Azwnndini Simba, whose NPO was used to channel the funds, seemed surprised. “What meeting are you talking about? I know nothing about that meeting. I am here nearby at Elim. I would have attended the meeting if invited,” he said.
Date:12 October 2018 - By: Elmon Tshikhudo
Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and has since been a familiar name among the newspaper's readers.