Zuma’s big SONA untruth

Zuma's schools claim is false

A file photo taken on October 3, 2013 shows South Africa President Jacob Zuma gesturing during the opening ceremony of the first national Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) summit in Midrand. Photo: AFP/Stephane de SakutinSouth African President Jacob Zuma claimed during his State of the Nation address last night that his government had “opened at least one new school a week in the Eastern Cape [province] last year”.

But the claim – which stems from a public relations drive by the country’s Department of Basic Education – is untrue.

An Africa Check investigation into the department’s “one school a week” campaign revealed that education officials had staged ceremonial school “hand-overs” months after many of the schools had actually opened their doors. In one instance, a school had been open for a full year before a formal opening ceremony was held. And at least two schools were declared “open” even though construction had not been completed.

By scheduling ceremonial openings to take place week after week, the department had created the misleading impression that it was opening a new school a week.  In reality, many schools promised by Zuma in the Eastern Cape had failed to materialise.

At face value, Zuma’s claim would also seem to suggest that 52 schools were opened in the Eastern Cape last year. But that is not the case. The campaign only got off the ground more than halfway through the year. And an official schedule published at the time indicated that 19 schools would be “handed over” by November.

Zuma’s claim that government opened “at least one new school a week in the Eastern Cape” in 2013 is false. Read the original Africa Check report here. – Africa Check 18/06/14

UPDATE: During Parliament’s debate on the State of the Nation address on 18 June 2014, the newly appointed Human Settlements minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, echoed Zuma’s claim, saying that “new schools are opened in the Eastern Cape – one every week”.