‘I got in­volved to re­vive sport’

CityPress - - News -

It is per­haps not by de­fault but by de­sign that Theo van Rens­burg is the first re­spon­dent in the court case be­tween the David­sonville Com­mu­nity Fo­rum and the Gaut­eng ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment.

Last month, frus­trated MEC Panyaza Le­sufi rushed to the South Gaut­eng High Court to in­ter­dict the fo­rum from dis­rupt­ing teach­ing and learn­ing at Rood­e­poort Pri­mary School.

Van Rens­burg serves as vice-chair­man of the fo­rum.

His vi­va­cious char­ac­ter, hair-trig­ger tem­per and sense of au­thor­ity are per­haps what set the fo­rum on a col­li­sion course with Le­sufi – who in the end suc­cess­fully did in­ter­dict the body from dis­rupt­ing the school.

Van Rens­burg is one of the fo­rum’s most vo­cal mem­bers and his lithe frame and dark, hawk­ish eyes give him the ap­pear­ance of a man with an un­flag­ging ap­petite for con­tro­versy.

But for all his zeal, Van Rens­burg doesn’t even have chil­dren at the school. His two boys are long grown up.

He says he be­came in­volved be­cause of his pas­sion for sport.

“I’m the chair­man of the Rood­e­poort Sport De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion. There hasn’t been any sport at the school since the ar­rival of [prin­ci­pal No­math­emba] Molefe,” he says.

“I wrote her sev­eral letters and made nu­mer­ous at­tempts to meet her to re­vive sport, but in vain. “That is why I de­cided to get in­volved.” Van Rens­burg won’t re­veal much about him­self, not even his age. All he will say is that he has lived in David­sonville for 51 years.

Rood­e­poort Pri­mary has seen lit­tle teach­ing or learn­ing since the be­gin­ning of the year. In court pa­pers, Le­sufi ac­cuses Van Rens­burg and his fo­rum of cre­at­ing a com­bustible sit­u­a­tion, and putting the school and its neigh­bour­hood on a knife edge.

Since Oc­to­ber, the fo­rum has de­manded the ax­ing of Molefe and her two deputies, ar­gu­ing that their ap­point­ments were ir­reg­u­lar.

Le­sufi in­sti­tuted two in­ves­ti­ga­tions – one into their ap­point­ments, and the other into al­le­ga­tions of fi­nan­cial mis­con­duct and cor­rup­tion – but they came up with noth­ing.

Le­sufi came to an in­evitable con­clu­sion, ac­cus­ing the fo­rum of “not want­ing a black prin­ci­pal”. Van Rens­burg ve­he­mently de­nies his fo­rum is racist. “We have lov­ingly ac­cepted 80 black kids and 16 black teach­ers into our school. It shows we are not racist. There are 17 churches here and we are peace lov­ing,” he fumes. “If we are racists, why did we al­low all the other black teach­ers to re­main at the school when we had prob­lems? Those who left did so be­cause they sup­port the prin­ci­pal.”

Van Rens­burg is a well-known soc­cer coach in the emerg­ing mid­dle class neigh­bour­hood where, ac­cord­ing to cen­sus sta­tis­tics, house­holds earn an an­nual salary of R115 000 a year.

Nearly half its res­i­dents’ home lan­guage is Afrikaans. Most of his play­ers are black, he says. “Most of my young­sters are from Lind­haven, Grob­ler­park, Hlong­wane and Matholeville.

“Two of my black boys were re­cently robbed by two coloured guys and I per­formed a citizen’s ar­rest. They are still in jail. Where is the racism?”

Van Rens­burg and his fo­rum still hold on to their belief that there were ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the ap­point­ments.

“The school gov­ern­ing body was de­clared dys­func­tional dur­ing in­ter­views.

“The seal of the en­ve­lope car­ry­ing all the ap­pli­cants’ CVs was bro­ken. An ob­jec­tion was lodged, but the process still went ahead, and the in­ter­views were done at Culem­beeck Pri­mary School in Wit­poortjie,” he says.

The fo­rum’s favoured can­di­date, for­mer act­ing prin­ci­pal Harold Strauss, was dis­qual­i­fied be­cause some pages of his CV were miss­ing and he had not signed some ap­pli­ca­tion forms.

“Some doc­u­ments were taken out of his CV and he was dis­qual­i­fied. He has a teach­ing de­gree and he has been a teacher for 19 years. Our ar­gu­ment is that he was not even short­listed.” Van Rens­burg in­sists the depart­ment by­passed the school’s heads of de­part­ments when ap­point­ing the deputy prin­ci­pals, and ap­pointed a ju­nior teacher in­stead.

“We don’t have a prob­lem with a black prin­ci­pal. We ac­tu­ally don’t even have a prob­lem with Molefe.

“You can even give us another black prin­ci­pal, but we will not ac­cept cor­rup­tion,” he says.

BY DE­SIGN

Theo van Rens­burg out­side the gate of Rood­e­poort Pri­mary School

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