LOVE NOTES GO VERNAC

CityPress - - Front Page - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

Mandla Man­dela, chief of Mvezo in the East­ern Cape and the el­dest grand­son of for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela, stands ac­cused of in­ter­fer­ing in the run­ning of the Man­dela School of Science and Tech­nol­ogy and en­cour­ag­ing pupils to re­volt against the prin­ci­pal. He is also ac­cused of pitch­ing up to school as­sem­blies to ad­dress the pupils with­out first clear­ing this with the head­mas­ter, and de­mand­ing to see the CVs of teach­ers be­fore they are hired.

Five in­de­pen­dent sources – in­clud­ing of­fi­cials from the pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment and staff at the school, sit­u­ated in the small vil­lage of Mvezo – say Man­dela was the in­sti­tu­tion’s de facto prin­ci­pal.

They al­lege that Man­dela, who is also an ANC MP, en­cour­aged pupils to “re­volt against the prin­ci­pal” and get rid of him.

Prin­ci­pal Pat Toni is on “spe­cial leave” – pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment’s risk man­age­ment unit – for hav­ing al­legedly abused school funds.

The school was built by in­ter­na­tional engi­neer­ing firm Siemens at a cost of R100 mil­lion, and was opened by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in Jan­uary 2014.

“Even the lead­er­ship of the pro­vin­cial govern­ment is afraid to in­ter­vene at that school be­cause they are scared of Mandla,” said one ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cial.

“You in­ter­vene at the school and the next thing, you get a call from Pre­to­ria telling you to leave Mandla alone,” he added.

“The school is be­ing run from Mvezo Great Place [Man­dela’s res­i­dence]; that is why Mandla and the prin­ci­pal do not see eye-to­eye. The prin­ci­pal is not afraid to chal­lenge Mandla and tell him he is only an­swer­able to the depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion, not a chief.”

Man­dela, how­ever, de­nied any in­ter­fer­ence in the school, saying he had noth­ing to do with the place­ment of the prin­ci­pal on spe­cial leave.

Siemens has also de­fended him, deny­ing that he in­ter­fered and saying he has in­stead been a “big help”. Toni, though, con­firmed the five sources’ al­le­ga­tions. “It was de­cided in a par­ents’ meet­ing, chaired by Mandla, that they no longer want me at the school and I should not be al­lowed back there. The learn­ers were told as much,” he said.

“But I went back to the school, de­spite know­ing this in­for­ma­tion. Learn­ers come to me and told me to leave be­cause a meet­ing chaired by Mandla de­cided I was no longer wel­come at the school.”

Toni al­leged Man­dela con­stantly in­ter­fered in the school’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, call­ing meet­ings only the head­mas­ter was sup­posed to call.

De­spite open­ing sev­eral cases of in­tim­i­da­tion with the po­lice, not a sin­gle pupil had been ques­tioned, Toni said.

“I think the po­lice gen­er­ally are afraid of the chief. They have not gone to the school to in­ves­ti­gate. There is gen­eral in­tim­i­da­tion and fear. Peo­ple are too scared of Mandla.

“Gen­eral work­ers [se­cu­rity guards and clean­ers] at the school are paid from Mvezo Great Place through Man­dela’s mother, No­lusapho. She hires and fires these gen­eral work­ers and pays them from money pro­vided to her by Siemens.”

Man­dela, how­ever, de­nied that he and his mother had any­thing to do with the school’s prob­lems.

“Clearly, I do not have pow­ers of putting peo­ple on spe­cial leave, be­cause they do not get paid by me. I didn’t even know he was on spe­cial leave,” he said.

“The school gov­ern­ing body was told that [Toni] had been sus­pended for fail­ing to co­op­er­ate with the depart­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion. That is what was said by the ed­u­ca­tion MEC [Mandla Makhu­phula] ver­ba­tim. I can­not change what the MEC’s decision is and how he [Toni] did not com­ply with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Asked whether he had en­cour­aged a re­volt against the prin­ci­pal, Man­dela said: “I built a school for R100 mil­lion. There is no tra­di­tional leader in Africa who has built a school for R100 mil­lion. Let us be clear. You as City Press should be con­grat­u­lat­ing [me for] that.

“Peo­ple must see the good that the Mvezo Tra­di­tional Coun­cil is do­ing, in­stead of try­ing to put us in muddy waters on things that we are not even in­volved in. We de­liv­ered a school and we gave it to them [the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment]. They must run a school and must pro­duce re­sults.”

Man­dela said Siemens pro­vided the money for the school’s main­te­nance and em­ployed com­mu­nity mem­bers to do the work.

“That is a Siemens decision. It has noth­ing to do with Great Place. Siemens came to us and said ... there were fi­nan­cial prob­lems at the school, and would rather take their money and en­sure that it went di­rectly to the com­mu­nity,” he said.

“You must ask Rita Nkuhlu [the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor for busi­ness ex­cel­lence at Siemens in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa] why she with­drew fund­ing from the school and sought to fund a com­mu­nity sus­tain­abil­ity pro­gramme. If a fun­der de­cides to buy KFC to­day and to­mor­row it buys Chicken Licken, it is the fun­der’s decision. It has noth­ing to do with me and [mama No­lusapho] or the Great Place,” Man­dela said.

This week, pupils could be seen walk­ing long dis­tances to school in the morn­ing be­cause buses which Siemens had pro­vided had bro­ken down. Ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cial De­larey Mkhatshwa said one bus was be­ing held in an East Lon­don ware­house be­cause R60 000 was still owed for re­pairs. The other was stuck at the school premises after hav­ing bro­ken down.

The school also had no wa­ter as its pump was bro­ken, de­spite Siemens hav­ing con­trib­uted R15 mil­lion to sup­port main­te­nance in the past three years.

Nkuhlu said Siemens was aware that the prin­ci­pal had been on spe­cial leave since October. She also de­fended the Mvezo chief.

“As far as Chief Zwe­liv­elile [Man­dela’s praise name] is con­cerned, he has not been in­ter­fer­ing. In fact, he has been col­lab­o­rat­ing with Siemens, as well as with the se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tor cur­rently ap­pointed to the school, to en­sure it re­mains sta­ble,” she said.

“Dur­ing exam time, he came in very handy for us be­cause, by be­ing present in Mvezo, he was able to sup­port the school, staff and se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tor to en­sure that ex­ams did take place.”

Nkuhlu said the funds used to pay the work­ers were not linked to the school, but were part of en­ter­prise devel­op­ment to help sus­tain the com­mu­nity.

Ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment spokesper­son Mal­i­bongwe Mtima would only con­firm that the prin­ci­pal was on spe­cial leave. He de­clined to comment fur­ther, saying the mat­ter was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

TALK TO US What role, if any, should tra­di­tional lead­ers play in the wel­fare of schools in their ar­eas?

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PHOTOS: THEO JEPTHA

STAND­ING HIS GROUND Mandla Man­dela out­side the Man­dela School of Science and Tech­nol­ogy

THEN AND NOW Mandla Man­dela stands next to the school bus he once un­veiled. It is now in dis­re­pair

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