‘It’s not fair’: Why Motshekga came to Zille’s defence
It's not as if he was using them to DJ, but to teach poor pupils - and he should be applauded, insists minister
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga has expressed her disappointment with public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s finding against Western Cape premier Helen Zille for lending tablets to her son for extra maths lessons in poor schools.
Mkhwebane said on Wednesday that Zille had a conflict of interest when she facilitated the loan for her son’s company.
“How can you say it’s a conflict of interest when it’s in the public interest?” Motshekga told Times Select.
“My fear is that ... children of politicians will now be barred from doing community work. I feel that this is about picking on Zille’s child because he is the son of a politician. This cannot be fair.”
Mkhwebane found that Zille had exposed herself to a potential conflict by assisting Paul Maree, who was a maths teacher in the province at the time, to loan tablets from the department to use in extra maths lessons for matric pupils. He was not paid for those lessons, and the tablets were returned without any damage.
But Mkhwebane insisted that these details were irrelevant, maintaining that Zille gave her son an “unfair advantage” by facilitating the loan of the tablets.
“By intervening in the execution of the contract for the delivery of the computers, in order to ensure that the son can use these tablets, she exposed herself to a risk of a conflict of interest between her official responsibilities and her private interests.”
Zille has vowed to challenge the report in court, and is adamant that she was not conflicted. Motshekga seems to agree.
“We should actually appreciate it when our children demonstrate a social consciousnesses and do what Paul did. Very few young people care and this is what should be encouraged,” said Motshekga.
“We need to get as many hands on board as possible.”
Motshekga said she had been aware of Maree’s work in developing an app for maths teaching for several years, and her department was “very excited” about it.
“We have repeatedly said that we face major challenges in the provision of maths training, and this a very important way of addressing that,” she said.
She said it was never a secret that Maree was Zille’s son, and said his work in using technology to teach maths had shown extremely positive results. Maree is no longer working for the government as a teacher, but has started a business with the app he developed with another maths teacher.
According to Motshekga, there was also nothing unusual about Maree using department tablets to teach his extra maths classes.
“He was doing this for us ... he wasn’t going out there to use our computers to DJ.
“We as a department do what we can to assist those who want to help us. If someone is prepared to do a motivational talk for our learners, for example, we provide the venue and transport if needed.”
Mkhwebane’s investigation and report came after a complaint by the ANC’s Cameron Dugmore, a former education MEC in the Western Cape.
Motshekga stressed that her comments were being made in her official capacity as minister, and not as a member of the ANC.