By SIFISO DLAMINI | 2021-03-23
MINISTER of Education and Training Lady Howard Mabuza has been ordered to halt, with immediate effect, the payments of the 2020 outstanding school fees or face being slapped with a vote of no confidence. The motion moved by Matsanjeni North MP Phila Buthelezi and seconded by Shielweni II MP Strydom Mpanza wants school fees payments for classes that never sat for examinations to be stopped. They also moved that parents who had already paid in full for the year or forced to pay as per the ministry’s call to be refunded. In what almost turned into a heated argument, the minister lost her cool after one of the MPs made a sly comment and she was heard shouting in vernacular that ‘ungangibiti ngalo make lona, ngingumuhlonishwa,’ loosely translated as ‘do not refer to me as that woman I am an honourable member of Parliament.’ The minister was given 24 hours to comply with the motion. While making his submissions, Buthelezi said forcing parents to pay for services that they did not enjoy was tantamount to daylight robbery. He thanked his colleagues for accepting the motion and urged the minister to comply and implement the resolution or face being slapped with a vote of no confidence. Buthelezi noted that in all the schools, parents were forced to pay a deposit, being the fees for the first term as pupils would not be allowed to attend classes without doing so. He further expressed his displeasure with the arrogance displayed by the minister who demanded that parents should pay the fees even though pupils only attended classes for a period of five weeks before schools were closed. He added that by insisting that the parents should pay the fees, government was promoting a situation where school principals would be tempted to misuse the funds. Buthelezi noted that should all the parents be forced to pay the outstanding fees, the total amount would be around E180 million which would be equivalent to gifting the schools for services that the pupils have not enjoyed. "If you insist that parents should pay because government has already paid OVC and FPE grants, don't worry an audit is coming where all the school principals will have to account for every cent," he said. He acknowledged that as much as the minority, including him are able to pay, the majority of members of the public they represent who have been forced to stay at home without employment cannot afford to pay the fees. He noted that the elected MPs are the ones who feel the effects, as they are the ones who stay with the people on the ground unlike the appointed MPs. "May all the appointed MPs forgive me, but we are the ones and the public we represent that are affected by this. Let us not take advantage of Emaswati, the people are the ones who are complaining day in and day out about this thing," he said. The deputy speaker noted that for a number of the legislators and Cabinet ministers, they are not affected since they can afford to take their children to private schools, which have not been affected as they continue to learn regardless of the situation. He also mentioned that the justifications made by the minister do not make sense and if the motion was passed as it is and the minister fails to implement it within the stipulated period, he will approach the Speaker's office and move for the minister to be removed through a vote of no confidence. He was seconded by Mpanza, who also maintained that it does not make sense that parents are being forced to pay the fees. He added that the motion came at the right time. He acknowledged that he has also paid fees for his children who have not been able to go to school due to the pandemic. Buthelezi pleaded with the minister to reconsider her position and implement the House resolution. However, the minister accepted the motion and requested to be granted 48 hours so she could make the necessary consultations. The minister’s request did not go down well with the MPs. Lobamba Lomdzala MP Marwick Khumalo said he did not understand why the minister needed to make consultations as the motion was clearly instructing her. He was seconded by Mangcongco MP Oneboy Zikalala, who insisted that this was an instruction. Mhlangatane MP Madala Mhlanga recalled that he once moved a motion requesting for a report on the plan for schools opening, granting the minister seven days to table the report but it has since been 177 days before the report was finally tabled. Buthelezi maintained that the motion should remain the same and declined to grant the minister the 48 hours. He further insisted that if the minister fails to implement the resolution, he would move a vote of no confidence against her. The motion was voted for and passed by the House after the minister agreed to implement the motion within the stipulated period.
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