Gauteng Goverment owes R46m in rates.
Representatives of school governing bodies on the Gauteng East Rand were running around, trying to prevent the disconection of electricity supply to public schools in the area by the Ekurhuleni metro.
In one case a metal sheet was welded in front of the electrical box to prevent disconnection, and in the other a guard was posted at the box for the same purpose. Themba Gadebe, spokesperson for the Ekurhuleni metro, confirmed that the contractors were instructed by the metro and said the Gauteng department of Infrastructure and development owed the metro R46 million in outstanding rates and taxes for the school and administration buildings. The money has been outstanding since last year, he said.
Jan De Beer, chairman of the governing body of Dunvegan Primary School, told Moneyweb that contractors for the municipality that disconnected three schools' electricity had a list with the names of eight schools to be disconnected.
The three schools that were diconnected are Eastleigh Primary, MW de Wet Primary and Dunvegan Primary.
"I do understand that the metro has to collect its debtors and have a few other options, but it's not right to disrupt the education in the process," De Beer said.
De Beer said up to 7000 learners may be affected if the metro's instructions are carried out to the full extent.
The electricity will apparently only be reconnected once the outstanding bills have been settled. This leaves the schools in uncertainty about when they will be able to resume education. Michael Berger, chairman of Hurleyvale Primary School's govening body, vice-chairman of the govening body of Edenvale High and an executive member of the National Govening Body Foundation said three schools were disconnected, but at others the contractors were denied access to the premises to execute their instructions.
At the places they were denied access, the contractors allegedly threatened to come back after hours or to disconnect the power feed to the school from outside the premises.
Berger said the disconnections are unlawful. No prior notice has been given of the intention to disconnect, their utility bills that are the direct responsibility of each school were not in arrears and they should not be targeted for money owed by a government department.
According to Gadebe the metro the Gauteng department of infrastructure and development was warned of the impending disconnections. "We have engaged the relevant department on several occasions to try and resolve this matter," he said.
Berger said children have a consititutional right to education and diconnecting the electricity to schools will result in an unlawful infringement of that right.
He said the matter was brought to the attaention of the Gauteng Department of Education and the departmentis engaging its sister department.
Berger tried toget in touvh with the city manager of Ekuehuleni, but without success.
The assistance of the National Govening Body Foundation will also be sought, he said. Gadebe said: "We are confident this will be speedily resolved without compromising the learning and teaching in the schools."
The Gauteng Department of Education confirmed that the Department of Infrastructure is responsible for paying the rates bills of public schools in the province. The education department was aware of the issue, but was still investigating and will respond later.
An enquiry was also sent to the Gauteng Department of infrastructure and its response will be published when recieved.
The cutting of electricity does not only affect the students in class but the administration staff as well. These staff members are in processes of printing invoices for all parents that need to pay a monthly school fee for their child / children to attend school. With these electricity cuts ECCM can collect and manage all accounts that are in a delinquent stage and is also able to maintain a good relationship between the school and parent.