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Angie Motshekga and MECs in breach of constitutional duty

School feeding scheme to be implemented without delay.
Taking away the daily meal they had been receiving before lockdown has put millions of school children at risk of starvation. Image: Shutterstock

‘For now I ask no more than the justice of eating.’
Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga and the MECs of the various provinces have been held to be in breach of their constitutional duty in halting the feeding scheme under the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) during the Covid-19 lockdown, then reintroducing it in a very haphazard fashion, putting millions of school children at risk of starvation.

Read: South African children face hunger as school closure halts free meals

The Pretoria High Court on July 17 ordered that the NSNP be implemented without delay, and that it provide a “daily meal to all qualifying learners whether they are attending school or studying away from school as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The education minister and the various provincial MECs put up what the judge referred to as a “semantic defence”, which was “rejected as being in bad in law and contrived”.

The NSNP was initiated in 1994 by the first post-apartheid democratic government with the objective of alleviating hunger, thereby improving the quality of education by enhancing learning capacity, school attendance, punctuality and general health.

The court recognised that providing the poorest of the poor child with at least one nutritious meal a day was a lifesaver.

Covid-19 had the devastating effect of denying nine million school-going children with a daily meal. Schools were closed for 12 weeks.

The government did announce various measures to mitigate suffering, but child support grants are paid per caregiver, not child, and the government only managed to deliver 788 000 food parcels, whereas the feeding scheme would have provided 45 million meals per week. The meagre food parcels would have not assisted some 77% undocumented children.

Read: Covid-19 school closures in South Africa and their impact on children

The judgment referred to the Report on Social Grants and Feeding Schemes under the Covid-19 Lockdown in South Africa by Professor Jeremy Seekings, director of the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town. This report notes that “the social grant reforms failed to alleviate the plight of the poor”.

“Millions of people who are in informal employment [have] received no income or grants and they cannot meet their and their families’ basic needs and expenses.”

According to the report, “less food was distributed to poor families during the lockdown than before the lockdown”.

The Children’s Institute, the amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’), gave evidence that an estimated 30% of the South African population experience severe levels of food insecurity. Further, an estimated 11.6 million children live in households below the upper poverty line.

It was argued in court that the suspension of the NSNP has infringed on children’s right to basic nutrition.

The court held that:

  • Learners have an entitlement to receive basic nutrition which they have always received in terms of the NSNP. By discontinuing the NSNP the state is depriving the learners of this right to nutrition.
  • The state remains responsible for providing families with other socio-economic rights to enable them to provide for their children.
  • In interpreting the Bill of Rights to promote human dignity, equality and freedom, it can never allow for a child to go hungry. The “starvation of a child is unimaginable”. The department must roll out the NSNP.
  • The minister and MECs have not complied with their constitutional and statutory duties.

Minister and MECs make statement under oath that differs from the facts

Even though the minister and the MECs admitted that the NSNP was not rolled out as it should have been when schools reopened, the following statement was made under oath:

“We are in fact doing precisely that which the applicants want us to do and we have been doing so without judicial supervision under a structural interdict.”

Acting deputy Judge President Sulet Potterill commented: “Making such a statement under oath when the common cause facts show the contrary, is surprising and disturbing.”

In non-legal speak, one can deduce that the minister and the MECs lied under oath.

Potterill agreed with the applicants that the department has “played fast and loose with the facts” and therefore the department’s defence is meritless.

By order of court

The court made the following order:

  • All qualifying learners, whether or not they have resumed classes, are entitled to receive a daily meal as provided for under the NSNP.
  • The minister is under a constitutional and statutory duty to ensure that the NSNP provides a daily meal to all qualifying learners.
  • The minister is in breach of that duty.
  • The minister is ordered without delay to implement the NSNP, and ensure that it provides a daily meal to all qualifying learners.
  • The MECs are under a constitutional and statutory duty to implement the NSNP in their respective provinces.
  • The MECs are in breach of that duty.
  • The minister and the MECs are ordered to file within 10 days, and under oath, their plans and programmes to this court, including the further steps the minister will take to ensure that the MECs implement the plans. The court will supervise that the minster and the MECs follow the orders.

The minister and the MECs have to pay the costs of the court case, including the costs of three counsel.

No doubt taxpayers will have to pay for this debacle and the behaviour unbefitting of a minister and MECs.

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COMMENTS   11

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How on earth do you feed learners that are away from school? Perhaps the court should show how .

Easily – all schools are community based and which community is well known to the school staff (who sit at home and are getting paid for doing nothing at all). You distribute the food to the children from various close-by central points such as from the school premises, churches, clinics, sport facilities, libraries, community centres, etc within the community. With a little help from their friends the school staff and MEC staff that manages the NSNP should surely be able to get this right if they do care at all for the poor little children. Without doubt, hungry children will very fast start flocking to the nearest food distribution point like moths to the light.

There is something worrying about the court decision though. School feeding schemes have now been re-defined into simply being feeding schemes, and in fact, why should any child whatsoever, from the day he is born, be excluded? We need more accountability for breeding with impunity, parents showing little, if any, interest in the well-being of the children they so irresponsibly bring into this world. For everybody but themselves to care for.

To the ANC

#BLACKLIVESMATTER

Wrong, ALL LIVES MATTER!

Oh how the ANC are starving the people through their criminal actions and corruption.

If the Judge had the full set of facts before her, she would have made a more comprehensive finding. Von Malthus described that a specific political-economic system is plagued by constant malnutrition and hunger and the only way to escape these consequences, is by choosing an alternative political-economic system.

Malnutrition is inherent to, and inseparable from, the collectivist or communalist culture. The lack of personal accountability leads to the size of the population to grow larger than the economy that provides the resources to sustain that population. Famine is the only “family planner” in the collectivist community. The school feeding scheme aims to intervene in the action of nature. While this intervention may benefit the current generation, it will exacerbate and compound the problem for the next generation. The school feeding scheme only postpones and multiplies the famine, because the political-economic system stayed the same, and the population keeps growing unabatedly.

Civilizations moved away from collectivism towards capitalism and property rights to protect themselves against famine and malnutrition. When a society such as ours, turns the ship around, away from capitalism towards socialism, then the size of the population will have to shrink as a result of the shrinking economy.

Who will fund the school feeding scheme? The collectivist part of society cannot even afford to feed their own children, so they won’t finance the feeding scheme. The capitalist part of society will have to fund the feeding scheme while they also have to provide for the needs of their own children.

The Judge ordered in her judgement that property owners have a legal obligation to subsidize and feed collectivists. She should have gone further though. She should have banned collectivism altogether. She should have protected the collectivist against his own detrimental mindset by ordering him to adopt capitalism.

Such a judgement would be impossible to implement, so here we go, postponing and multiplying the malnutrition that has become unavoidable.

Another form of control, like having to renew drivers licenses every 5 years, liquor, tobacco bans, curfew etc starving people is another control. vote ANC and we will feed you.

My farm school before the ANC shut it also had a feeding scheme. My wife and i had to take control and dish it out……..our head mistress was stealing it all and selling it back to my staff.

So, just a slap on the wrist? Once again no ramifications for inept ministers..

Why the exaggeration about starvation when all SASSA parents are getting an extra R500 on top of the regular child grants? The extra amount was labeled as assistance for lockdown. I am sure it not suppose to be used for illegal smokes and alcohol.
The food that the schools provide are basic like pap and maas!

Angie must fall
Ramaphosa must fall

End of comments.

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