Independent Media Peddling Lies on Schools Bill
Premier Helen Zille says that Independent Newspapers have been peddling lies to their readers for at least a year about the Western Cape Provincial School Amendment Bill, currently before the Western Cape provincial parliament.
Writing in her Daily Maverick column today, Premier Zille says when the draft Bill went out for public comment, the ANC, working with “Independent” Newspapers, put the outrage-generating machine into over-drive, with headlines such as “Education Bill will see Schools ‘become Shebeens’”.
“We have explained the facts (patiently and often) to reporters of Independent Newspapers, to no avail. They are determined, in [Independent Media Owner Iqbal Survé’s own words, to manipulate the news “in the Goebbels tradition of propaganda,” says Premier Zille, referring to a recent op-ed in which Survé criticises another media group.
The Bill introduces several major education reforms to deepen accountability and quality education in the public schooling system. Reforms include the establishment of a Schools Evaluation Authority; specific provision for collaboration and donor-funded schools; and intervention facilities for learners found guilty of serious misconduct.
A further provision aims to regulate adult functions taking place after hours on school premises, by introducing a strict process by which schools can apply to the Western Cape Education Department for the responsible sale of alcohol to, or consumptions by adults at these events.
“Any rational person who has read the [Cape Argus and Cape Times] coverage of the Bill would be excused for believing that we intend selling alcohol at tuck shops during break,” says Premier Zille.
The Premier said the truth is, the Bill is aimed to stop the widespread accessibility of alcohol at functions held on school premises, by defining the limited and contained circumstances in which the Head of Education may grant permission for an adult event held on school premises, after hours, to serve alcohol.
This permission is required over and above the necessary temporary liquor licence, required in terms of the Liquor Act.
“The purpose is to bring, within the ambit of law, the many functions, held after hours on school premises, where alcohol is served, such as the hiring of school halls for weddings and 21st birthday parties. Or fund-raising events, such as wine auctions. In terms of the Bill, a permit will now have to be issued by the Head of Education, as well as a temporary liquor licence,” says Zille.
“This Bill will, for the first time, introduce proper accountability mechanisms in the public-school system, and that is why the ANC and its alliance partner, the South African Democratic Teachers Union, are determined to derail it. Their strategy to misrepresent it as a “Booze Bill” is intended to facilitate public mobilisation against it,” says Premier Zille.
The Premier further referenced the fact that Independent Media’s distorted reporting is bank-rolled by public funds, in particular the pension funds of civil servants. A Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Supreme Court of Appeal President Lex Mpati is now probing the Public Investment Corporation’s (PIC) irresponsible bank-rolling of Iqbal Survé’s ventures.
“Perhaps the recently announced Commission of Inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (that lent much of the money to Dr Survé’s Sekunjalo group to purchase Independent Newspapers for R2-billion) will lift the lid off the next bubbling cauldron,” said Zille.
The Premier added that the damage extends beyond the massacre of facts, towards a significant human cost too.
“The Chairman of the Legislature’s portfolio committee on Education, Basil Kivedo, has been so harassed as he sought to steer the Bill through the parliamentary process that his doctor eventually booked him off on stress leave. When I went to visit Basil, who has been confined to bed, he was a shadow of the man who, as an Umkhonto weSizwe operative, hid from the security police at my home during the States of Emergency in the 1980s.
“As strong as he was then, so dispirited and exhausted did he appear now, worn out by the repeated harassment, insinuations, and allegations of betrayal slung at him by people who have been duped by the ‘Goebbels propaganda machine’ masquerading as newspaper reporting,” said Zille.
After receiving at least 12 anonymous calls, of which some could be interpreted as threats on his life, Hon Kivedo MPP finally sought leave of absence. He is recovering while the legislature process goes on in his absence.