MEC Gade ducks and dives questions on controversial R160 million Sizwe Africa contract

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Education

The MEC of Education, Fundile Gade, and his Department must be summoned before the Education Portfolio Committee to answer questions regarding the contract with Sizwe Africa IT Group, after showing blatant contempt for portfolio members during a sitting yesterday.

I have never before witnessed such contempt from a member of the executive, who has chosen to rather act unconstitutionally and break his oath of office than simply answer questions regarding a contract that he has maintained is above board.

To go to such lengths to duck and dive any accountability from the legislature begs the question, what is the MEC hiding and just how badly does it stink?

After MEC Gade initially indicated his unwillingness to answer questions regarding the contract between Eastern Cape Department of Education and Sizwe Africa IT, the committee chairperson set up a special session for this matter to be interrogated. Members of the committee were asked to submit any questions they might have in this regard which will be responded to by the department in writing prior to the session scheduled for yesterday, 21 May 2020.

Having submitted a list of questions, the department responded the evening before the meeting indicating that they will not answer any of the questions as the matter is being investigated by the SAPS after I had laid charges against the department in this regard.\

Any person with even a rudimentary understanding of the legislature rules and the Sub Judice rule knows that only a matter that is currently before the courts and pending a decision of judge can be deemed sub judice and thus prevent commentary or engagement on the matter.

During the meeting, when it came time for the MEC and the department to respond to the questions relating to Sizwe Africa IT Group, the legal advisor of the legislature, who is an advocate, advised the committee that the matter is not sub judice, and there is no reason for the department not to respond.

The acting chairperson of the committee ruled, based on this legal advice, that the MEC and his department must respond to the questions. MEC Gade handed over to his legal advisor who stated that the MEC and the department will not be answering any questions on the contract, and the MEC himself bluntly refused to answer or allow his department to answer.

The committee has resolved to meet urgently to discuss its response to the contempt displayed by the MEC.

I will be urging the committee to uphold their own oaths of office and invoke rule 211 of the Standing Rules of the Legislature, which empower the committee to formally summon the MEC and his department in front of the Portfolio Committee to answer questions regarding the contract with Sizwe Africa IT Group, under oath.

The MEC and his department must be held accountable and should be not allowed to shy away from answering any questions brought to him by any member of the committee, or the public.

Any alleged looting of the limited funds available to the department of education under the guise of helping poor students must be rooted out so that the children of our province can receive the best possible education with the money being budgeted.

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