Mandla Mandela, the control freak

2014-06-08 18:58

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Johannesburg - Staff at the multimillion-rand Nelson Mandela School of Science and Technology in Mvezo have accused Mandla Mandela of interfering in how the institution is run - right down to choosing the colour of the chalk.

He has even branded the school buses with pictures of himself and his late grandfather.

This week, City Press spoke to three independent employees at the school, including teachers and nonteaching staff, as well as a former teacher at the school.

Sponsored for R100m by international engineering firm Siemens, the school is seen as a beacon of hope for rural Mvezo, the birthplace of late former president Nelson Mandela.

The school was opened by President Jacob Zuma and Siemens executives in January and boasts some of the latest technology and state-of-the-art facilities.

But some staff are unhappy with the younger Mandela. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a teacher who has left the school said that nothing could be done without Mandla’s approval.

“[Mandla] runs the school. He would tell us this was his school and we were there on invitation. At one stage, even the principal wanted to leave because of his interference. Teachers are frustrated at the school, but are afraid to talk,” said the ex-teacher.

Mandla’s spokesperson and publicist, Sisanda Gqirana, denied the claims. She said people were spreading lies to undermine the Mvezo chief’s good work.

One of the teachers at the school, who also asked not to be named, said Mandla often came to address pupils and teachers at assemblies on Mondays.

“He would tell everybody what he liked and what he didn’t. In one incident, he saw a picture of him with his grandfather outside the hall and asked why the picture was outside and not inside. We had to leave everything we were doing and attend to that. He was very upset.”

Another staff member, who was afraid of being named, said: “He wanted everything to go through him, academic or nonacademic. Two months ago, he demanded that all teachers resubmit their CVs so that he could conduct new interviews. Teachers are upset and intimidated by him. It’s not a nice place to work but we work because we need the job.”

Election time branding

All the employees interviewed claimed that before the 7 May elections, Mandla and other ANC members tried to distribute party T-shirts to pupils and teachers, but were stopped by the principal.

The school’s two 35-seater buses, donated by Siemens, also had their branding changed at election time. The engineering company’s logos were removed and replaced with ANC colours, allegedly on Mandla’s instructions and without the approval of Siemens.

“The buses have since been rebranded back to Siemens colours, but now there is a picture of Mandla and his grandfather that was not there before,” said a teacher.

Rita Nkuhlu, Siemens’ executive director responsible for the company’s involvement with the school, said Siemens had learnt in April that the buses had been branded with the ANC’s colours.

“A request was made that the original branding be restored immediately. Siemens is satisfied that the party political branding has now been removed,” Nkuhlu said.

“Siemens has had no reports of interference by Chief Mandla Mandela in the Mandela School of Science and Technology. Chief Mandela does visit the school and talks to the learners on special occasions, as is appropriate for a community leader, but he has no role in the running of the school.”

She said Siemens had not received any complaints from staff members.

Said one teacher: “[Mandla] really calls the shots here and he does what he wants. He comes and goes at the school as he pleases. He even decides what colour of chalk should be used.”

Gqirana said Mandla was just trying to be hands-on and to help the school to do well.

“The school is Mandla’s brainchild and there is nothing wrong with him going to the school to see if things are running smoothly. You must remember this is Mandla’s project and he feels very strongly about it. All he wants is to monitor things. There is no interfering and we have not heard of anybody who is unhappy at the school.”

Read more on:    anc  |  mandla mandela
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