Roodepoort parents: This is about corruption, not racism

2015-08-26 07:58
Roodepoort Primary School (Ahmed Areff, News24)

Roodepoort Primary School (Ahmed Areff, News24)

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WATCH: I will hunt you boy, angry mom tells Roodepoort cop

2015-08-18 13:16

Tensions remained high outside Roodepoort Primary school after Tuesday’s chaos had subsided. Watch. WATCH

Johannesburg - The playground and classrooms of Roodepoort Primary School, in Davidsonville were eerily quiet on Tuesday morning.

An independent mediation team is presently deciding on the future of the school after violent disruptions and clashes with residents. The school, which has been mired in allegations of corruption and racism, was temporarily closed last week as a result.

In the interim, some pupils were moved to Lufhereng Primary School in Soweto.

Speaking to News24 on Tuesday, some residents said the problems at the school had nothing to do with racism and everything to do with corruption allegedly involving the school's principal, Nomathemba Molefe, and her two deputies.

According to several independent investigations, Molefe has, however, been cleared of financial mismanagement.

Additionally, no irregularity in terms of her appointment nor that of her deputies, has been found.

'The kids are suffering here'

King Marcus, 35, has two sons at the school - in Grade 3 and Grade 4 respectively.

He said the mediation team, appointed by Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, met with residents on Monday.

Marcus said he wanted the school to be reopened, despite mediation and investigations.

"When Parliament is disrupted by the EFF, they don't close Parliament down. When they are investigating Eskom, they don't shut it down.

"Why can't they keep our school open and do their investigations? The kids are suffering here."

The chair of the Davidsonville Community Forum, Brendon Rousseau, echoed Marcus.

"The parents had a meeting with the mediation team yesterday [Monday], and they want to neutralise [the situation] and take kids from Davidsonville to a different place and the parents said no," he told News24.

"Here is the school. There is nothing wrong with the school and the teachers from this area want to teach the children. They are denying education for this community... While they are investigating the process and all the other stuff, they should open the school."

Appointments from outside the community

Marcus said a former deputy principal at the school was expected to take over from the previous principal in 2011.

"The deputy principal, who is coloured, was next in line, but the department put their own person there. And since she [took over], the school has gone down - the facilities have gone down and so has the standard of education," he claimed.

Rousseau said the main problem the community had was with the appointment of Molefe and her deputies.

"In 2011 the SGB [school governing body] wrote a letter of no-confidence in their chairperson to the district," he said.

"The district came in, and they said they are disbanding the SGB, but then they came again, they took the SGB chairperson to sign off the post of principal."

He claimed that this happened again with the appointments of Molefe's deputies.

"We are asking that if you disband a SGB and they no longer have power, how can you bring the chairperson of the SGB to come sign off a post?"

Rousseau claimed the other people who applied for the position of principal were all highly qualified.

"We have the grievances by people who have applied for posts. Coloured people who were higher qualified, who are on higher levels at the school and have more years of experience weren't even shortlisted," he said.

"They are appointing people from outside and are not considering the coloured people from this community."

'We are not racists'

Rousseau disputed findings of an investigation that said the appointments were done correctly, and another by KPMG that cleared Molefe of financial mismanagement.

"KPMG came in, they investigated and found nothing wrong. That is what the MEC says, but he never gave us the report on those findings. We want to challenge that report. "

When asked about the reports, Marcus said, "If they [government] can clear the president, they can clear anyone that works for them."

He disputed that race was the driving factor in the unrest surrounding the school.

"We are not racists. If you ask the elders here about the history of this school they will tell you that there were no reports of racist incidents.  I was in the school in the 90s together with black people, and there was no racism," he said.

"They [government] says we are black, but when a situation like this happens, now they say that we are in fact coloured.

"But they say that black people can't be racist. If there was a white lecturer in a university that they don't want - they don't call that racism."

News24 was unable to contact Molefe to comment on the allegations levelled against her.

Task team

Lesufi appointed an independent mediation task team last week to find a solution to the problems at the school.

The team included Reverend Gift Moerane from the SA Council of Churches, Bishop Paul Verryn, Unisef goodwill ambassador and singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, former director general of the Presidency Reverend Frank Chikane and representatives from the office of the Public Protector and from the Ahmed Kathrada foundation, among others.

Provincial education department spokesperson Phumla Sekhonyane told News24 on Tuesday that the team "has been given the space to conduct its work without any undue influence from the department, any group or individuals".

"It is on this basis that the department has taken a decision to cease from making public any information that has a potential of being seen as determining a pre-perceived outcome of this process or influencing the ultimate decision of the task team until the team has concluded its work," she said.

Moerane told News24 on Tuesday that the team was still "consolidating" its plan.

"The consultation process has to come to an end. We are now processing that information to make recommendations."

Last Tuesday, police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse parents who allegedly tried to stop a bus transporting pupils to the school in Soweto.

'Last chance'

On August 11, Lesufi threatened to close the school down permanently if learning was disrupted.

"I am giving them their last chance. If something happens... I have no choice but to permanently close that school. We will spread the learners to all the surrounding schools, as well as the teachers," he said at the time.

Lesufi's warning followed two recent incidents at the school, one in which a petrol bomb was thrown at the deputy principal's car and another in which a person claiming to be a parent arrived on the school premises with a gun.

Lesufi said that because of these incidents, black teachers had stopped coming to the school because they "feared for their lives" and the attendance of pupils had also dropped.

Last month, Lesufi said residents tried to disrupt teaching at the school as it reopened for the new term, after which he employed an armed security company.

Lesufi said in June that he was closing down the school, but would reopen it in the new term and would "have a plan in place".

That was the second time he had taken drastic action against the school, until now.

In April, he also closed it down, but reopened it several days later.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  education  |  protests

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