Education official paid R700 000 a year to ‘loiter’

2014-06-01 15:01

A senior official in Mpumalanga’s provincial education department has been collecting his R700?000 annual salary for almost five years for doing nothing more than pitching up to work “to loiter and read newspapers”.

Shamba Mtembu last did some actual work for the department in September 2009 – before education MEC Reginah Mhaule and head of department Mahlasedi Mhlabane removed him from his position as Bushbuckridge regional director after the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) in the region demanded his axing.

Documents in City Press’ possession show that shortly after Mtembu left, eight serving and former Sadtu branch chairpersons and secretaries were appointed to senior positions within the department or they became principals.

The documents, which are part of Mtembu’s ongoing disciplinary hearings that started in 2012, reveal that those eight officials have neither the qualifications nor the required experience for the positions to which they were appointed.

Two senior department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they fear reprisals, said they believed Mtembu refused to appoint Sadtu’s preferred candidates and was removed on trumped-up charges. His troubles began in September 2009 when Sadtu members in Bushbuckridge marched and submitted a memorandum to Mhaule. In it, they accused Mtembu of nepotism, poor management and “unilateral implementation of the no work, no pay principle”.

If the MEC did not remove him immediately, according to Sadtu’s memorandum, it would “leave this organisation with no option but to effectively disrupt education provisioning in the region”. The same day, Mtembu was called to a meeting in Nelspruit where Mhlabane instructed him to immediately report for duty at head office.

“The meeting discussed the Bushbuckridge march and appointed a task team to investigate the allegations raised in the memorandum,” according to the documents. Two days later, Mhlabane sent Mtembu a letter seconding him to head office “to allow the team to finalise the investigation”. That investigation cleared Mtembu of wrongdoing, but he was not reinstated and another person was appointed in his position.

Those appointed within six months of his departure, whose names are known to City Press, include:

» A school head of department was parachuted into the position of chief education specialist. He became responsible for 13 circuit offices. He jumped three levels in the process. Ordinarily, he would have had to become a deputy principal, principal and circuit manager before becoming a chief education specialist. The man refused to comment;

» A junior teacher who became a deputy director of labour within the department. The teacher claimed he had obtained a “practical diploma in labour law” from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2011. But the university could not find his name on its database. University spokesperson Roslyn Baaitjies said a thorough search would be performed tomorrow. The teacher said there was nothing wrong with his appointment as he had the necessary experience after having worked as a labour negotiator for the department since 2007. He declined to comment further;

» Another head of department at a school was parachuted into the post of deputy curriculum education specialist, skipping five levels. He also refused to comment;

» Four junior teachers, who were appointed as principals in the Bushbuckridge area; and

» Another teacher, who allegedly failed an assessment, was appointed director of labour, bypassing a candidate who had done well in the assessment and during interviews. The man who got the job declined to comment.

A senior official in the Bushbuckridge district, who spoke on condition of anonymity, this week said: “Yes, they were hired immediately after the departure of the regional director [Mtembu]. We really need to check if they qualify for those positions. I mean, how does a senior teacher become a circuit coordinator? That is a more senior position than a circuit manager.”

Another Bushbuckridge official said: “Everybody knows how they were appointed. It’s no secret. They didn’t qualify.”

One of Mtembu’s colleagues, who also asked not to be named as he feared reprisals, said Mtembu was now doing nothing. “He comes here to loiter and read newspapers every day.”

Mtembu refused to comment. Provincial education spokesperson Jasper Zwane also declined to comment, referring all questions to a task team investigating Sadtu’s jobs-for-cash racket, which Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is yet to officially appoint. Bushbuckridge Sadtu secretary Matlakala Morema declined to comment.

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