Equal Education expresses serious concern about the repeated postponement of the fraud and money laundering trial of Portia Sizani, wife of ANC Chief Whip Stone Sizani. After the trial was previously postponed for a year due to Sizani’s alleged illness, it has now been postponed again until 26 January 2015, after Sizani’s defence team insisted on more time to review new documents.
We are not questioning whether this particular postponement was appropriate or not, but are expressing a deep concern about the ongoing delays which have thus far prevented justice from being done. Corruption in education – and in Eastern Cape education in particular – is a very serious problem that threatens the education of poor and working class children. It is essential that those engaging in corrupt practices are held accountable, without fear or favour.
Last year Sizani was arrested in Port Elizabeth on charges of money laundering and theft totalling about R1.3 million. The charges date back to 2009 when she was the coordinator of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme in the department of education, in charge of appointing Grade R teachers. She would allegedly obtain the personal details of teachers, apply for posts on their behalf and falsify the principal’s signature of approval. Once the money was paid by the department into the teachers’ accounts, Mrs Sizani would allegedly inform them that a mistake had been made and that the money should be paid back to her. Sizani has been charged with 16 counts of fraud and money laundering.
Her husband, Stone Sizani, now ANC Chief Whip in Parliament, was MEC for education in the Eastern Cape until 2002.
The Eastern Cape remains the worst performing province in the country in terms of education, and corruption contributes to the province’s education crisis. We condemn fraud and corruption wherever they rear their ugly heads but particularly in education. In this case it is more disturbing because Early Childhood Development continues to be undermined.
ECD programmes are still mainly funded by parents (70% – 80%). This means that the type of corruption Sizani is accused of – which reduces the state’s ability to subsidise ECD – may literally take food out of the mouths of families who have to pay more for ECD. This type of corruption undermines opportunities to create sustainable employment and promote skills development in education for black women. ECD workers are amongst the least protected in the country, and the most open to this type of exploitation. We call on the labour movement to help to organise and support these workers.
The fight against corruption is important for human rights, social justice and equality. It requires leadership. We call on our leaders, starting with the President, to set the right example. This must begin with respecting the office of the Public Protector, and fully implementing her directives on Nkandla.
Similarly, the case of Portia Sizani is important in showing that nobody is above the law. We would like to see the case conclude soon and see justice take its course. Corruption in education is an enemy to our national development aims and must be stopped in its tracks.
For more information contact:
Yoliswa Dwane (National Chairperson) 076 706 2338
Nombulelo Nyathela (Spokesperson) 060 503 4933 firstname.lastname@example.org