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CityPress - - News - SIPHO MA­SONDO sipho.ma­sondo@city­press.co.za

he na­tional depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion is in­ves­ti­gat­ing death threats made against a KwaZulu-Natal dis­trict di­rec­tor who re­fused to ap­point an un­der­qual­i­fied SA Demo­cratic Teach­ers’ Union (Sadtu) mem­ber to a top depart­ment job.

Bheki Ntuli, di­rec­tor of the province’s Um­lazi dis­trict, was al­legedly threat­ened af­ter he and two col­leagues re­fused to rec­om­mend a Sadtu prin­ci­pal for one of five chief ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist po­si­tions.

“Do you want to con­tinue liv­ing or not? You will die if you don’t co­op­er­ate with the SA Demo­cratic Teach­ers’ Union. Choose to co­op­er­ate or you will be killed. Your days are num­bered. You will die be­cause you are a fool,” a caller told him.

Ntuli has now re­ported the threat to in­ves­ti­ga­tors Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga ap­pointed to probe Sadtu mem­bers’ jobs-for-cash racket, which City Press ex­posed 18 months ago.

In an SMS Ntuli sent to the in­ves­ti­gat­ing team headed by Pro­fes­sor John Volmink, he said he emailed them about a “very se­ri­ous case of post­fix­ing” in­volv­ing “our head of­fice chief di­rec­tor Them­be­lihle Gumede and Sadtu on the on­go­ing se­lec­tion pro­cesses for [chief ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist] posts in the dis­trict”.

He also claimed to be re­ceiv­ing calls from an uniden­ti­fied man, who de­manded he strike a deal with Gumede to ap­point a lo­cal prin­ci­pal and Sadtu mem­ber to the job.

“My fear is that I may be killed be­fore see­ing your com­mis­sion. Please send your team ... to in­ter­view me as soon as pos­si­ble. Even to­day I am avail­able.”

City Press ap­proached Gumede for com­ment about Ntuli’s al­le­ga­tions on Fri­day, but she de­clined to speak to us. How­ever, she did say she would co­op­er­ate with Volmink’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Gumede, a Sadtu mem­ber, was ap­pointed by pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment head Nkosi­nathi Sishi to chair the pan­els that short-listed and in­ter­viewed can­di­dates for the 39 chief ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist po­si­tions be­ing filled across the province.

The posts, which carry salaries of about R700 000 a year, are highly sought-af­ter. In May, City Press re­ported that Sadtu was cir­cu­lat­ing a list of its mem­bers who should be ap­pointed. Sadtu also ob­jected to dis­trict di­rec­tors chair­ing in­ter­view pan­els in their re­gions, prompt­ing Sishi to ap­point Gumede to chair them in­stead.

A mem­ber of Volmink’s team, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, con­firmed Ntuli’s SMS.

“The guys from the depart­ment of jus­tice work­ing with us are fol­low­ing up on the mat­ter. We need to pro­tect peo­ple who blow the whis­tle and risk their lives in the process,” said the of­fi­cial.

A se­nior of­fi­cial in Um­lazi, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, said Ntuli’s caller told him that “as a com­rade, you should un­der­stand that Sadtu mem­bers should be de­ployed”.

When Ntuli told him he would not be in­volved in post-fix­ing, the caller re­sponded: “Do you want to con­tinue liv­ing or not? You will die if you don’t want to co­op­er­ate with Sadtu.”

Ntuli has of­fi­cially com­plained about Gumede’s con­duct to pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, Sishi, Volmink’s team and Gumede.

In a let­ter to Sishi, a copy of which City Press has ob­tained, Ntuli wrote that Gumede had “ex­pressed her con­cern” that he and his fel­low dis­trict di­rec­tors – Them­be­lihle Vi­lakazi from Ilembe and Dr Bheki Mthabela from Pine­town – had “lost a great op­por­tu­nity of mend­ing re­la­tions with Sadtu ... by fail­ing to pro­mote a Sadtu mem­ber in the place of ... a Natu [Na­tional Teach­ers’ Union] mem­ber”.

Ntuli added that they told Gumede that they scored can­di­dates in ac­cor­dance with their per­for­mance and “with­out con­sid­er­a­tion of their union af­fil­i­a­tion”.

“We fur­ther told the chair­per­son that what she spoke about was post-fix­ing. We were clear that we would not want to be as­so­ci­ated with post-fix­ing,” he wrote.

“The chair­per­son got an­gry and emo­tional, and then cited that we were go­ing to be re­placed by what she called an in­de­pen­dent panel.”

Ntuli, Mthabela and Vi­lakazi were ap­pointed as in­ter­view pan­el­lists for the chief ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist posts at Ilembe, Pine­town and Um­lazi.

The three later re­ceived letters in­form­ing them that they would no longer be in­ter­view­ing can­di­dates in dis­tricts out­side their own.

In his let­ter to Sishi, Ntuli said he would no longer take part in any in­ter­view panel be­cause new mem­bers “have been ap­pointed ... to carry out a post-fix­ing ex­er­cise”.

A se­nior depart­ment of­fi­cial told City Press that the new panel over­looked two of­fi­cials who have been act­ing chief ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ists for more than five years, one of whom has a doc­tor­ate in ed­u­ca­tion. In­stead, they rec­om­mended the prin­ci­pal who had less than 10 years of ex­pe­ri­ence.

“The prin­ci­pal is a se­nior Sadtu mem­ber at the union’s Um­lazi branch,” the of­fi­cial said.

Four days be­fore Gumede fell out with the di­rec­tors, Sadtu pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary No­marashiya Caluza wrote to the depart­ment ask­ing for Ntuli and Vi­lakazi’s re­moval from the in­ter­view­ing pan­els.

In the let­ter, Caluza ac­cuses Vi­lakazi of promis­ing to re­serve po­si­tions for cer­tain can­di­dates and sneak­ing in ap­pli­ca­tions af­ter clos­ing dates. She ac­cuses both Vi­lakazi and Ntuli of swap­ping ap­pli­cants in their dis­tricts, host­ing “se­cret meet­ings to desta­bilise the depart­ment” and re­fus­ing to short-list prin­ci­pals for the lu­cra­tive spe­cial­ist po­si­tions.

Caluza asked the depart­ment to in­ves­ti­gate and rec­om­mended that Mot­shekga be asked to send a team to the dis­tricts to in­ter­view the can­di­dates in­stead.

How­ever, a se­nior of­fi­cial told City Press that the three di­rec­tors were not al­lowed to short-list prin­ci­pals for the po­si­tions be­cause they were not qual­i­fied enough.

“A chief ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist is two po­si­tions above a prin­ci­pal. How do you ex­pect a prin­ci­pal to do such a job?” the of­fi­cial said.

Sadtu’s deputy pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary, Bheki Shandu, said Vi­lakazi and Ntuli “were hellbent on tar­nish­ing the in­tegrity” of the in­ter­view process.

“We want to en­sure that ev­ery­thing is done ac­cord­ing to the book to avoid the neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity around us. As an or­gan­i­sa­tion fight­ing cor­rup­tion, we have all the rea­son to raise is­sues. Pro­cesses must be clin­i­cal so that all ap­pli­cants are treated fairly,” he said.

How­ever, Natu vice-pres­i­dent Alan Thompson said the depart­ment was tar­get­ing spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als for the po­si­tions.

“In Zu­l­u­land, one can­di­date was more el­i­gi­ble than oth­ers, but he was ig­nored,” he said.

Thompson said Natu met Nkonyeni to dis­cuss the “sud­den” change of panel mem­bers in Um­lazi, Ilembe, Pine­town, Ugu and other dis­tricts.

“We are weigh­ing up our op­tions, which will in­clude go­ing to court to in­ter­dict the depart­ment from chang­ing pan­el­lists,” he said.

Pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Muzi Mahlambi de­clined to com­ment, say­ing Volmink’s team was in­ves­ti­gat­ing all post-fix­ing cases.

Both Ntuli and Vi­lakazi de­clined to com­ment.

PHOTO: MHIE SI­LANGWE

SCARED

Bheki Ntuli

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