State Security Minister David Mahlobo
State Security Minister David Mahlobo must account "for his failings" in front of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, which is open to the public, and not the closed Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has said.
DA MP Nomsa Marchesi has written to the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education to request that the minister appears before it.
Marchesi wants Mahlobo to "explain how his department knew about the protests in Vuwani a year before they happened" but chose not to act on the intelligence they were given in a bid to prevent it.
On Tuesday evening, Mahlobo addressed the media at the African National Congress' national policy conference, where he said, "We knew of Vuwani, Malamulele a year ago, that it will happen".
Journalists attending the press conference laughed in apparent disbelief.
But Marchesi was not amused.
"Access to education, especially for the poor, is something the DA takes seriously as it is necessary for entry into the job market; as such, we cannot accept any hindrance to learning," she said according to a statement.
"Mahlobo’s utterances paint a grim picture of the state of national security and he must account to the people for his failings."
Replies to the DA's parliamentary questions from June 2016 revealed that 20 schools were damaged during the violent protests, with a total of 79 classrooms burnt and a further 13 vandalised. There were 1 805 desks destroyed, along with surplus textbooks, stationery and school records.
The violence erupted after residents lost a court bid to remain in the Makhado municipality after the Municipal Demarcation Board moved Vuwani and surrounding areas into the Lim 345 local municipality.
According to Marchesi, children in Vuwani were denied access to education from the first half of May 2016 and most could not return to schools until the beginning of August as a result of the protests and were thus deprived of their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
"Learners were prevented from going to school again in April this year when more schools were burned and nearly 30 000 pupils were affected by the shutdown," said Marchesi.
"The least minister Mahlobo could have done was to brief Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, on any developments that were projected to affect learning in the area and posed threats to learners in order to minimise the damage caused by the protests. It is imperative that the minister be summoned before the education committee so that we can get to the bottom of this situation."
She said the protests had a major impact on the community and an open committee sitting, to which the committees on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and police should also be invited, will ensure that Mahlobo is held accountable.
As minister of state security Mahlobo reports to the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, whose meetings are closed to the public by default. Other committee meetings must be open to the public unless there is a pressing need for it to be closed, in which case it must be announced beforehand.