Slain principal faced school threats

2015-08-28 09:05
KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni looks at a threat saying “RESIGN” spray painted on a wall at Villa Maria Primary School near Table Mountain. The MEC visited the school after the principal, Nokuthula Magwanyana, was murdered on Wednesday.

KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni looks at a threat saying “RESIGN” spray painted on a wall at Villa Maria Primary School near Table Mountain. The MEC visited the school after the principal, Nokuthula Magwanyana, was murdered on Wednesday. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Not content with painting a threatening message at her home, Nokuthula Magwanyana’s killers brought their threats for her to quit her job to work, boldly spray painting the word “resign” in red across her office wall.

When the 20-year education veteran refused to be cowed by the warning, they made good on their threats, brutally hacking her to death as she made her way home from Villa Maria Primary School in the Table Mountain area, on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Villa Maria pupils were sent home early as Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, along with other department officials, police and psychologists, briefed Magwanyana’s colleagues.

Officials believe that the murder stems from over Magwanyana’s appointment as principal at the school almost two years ago.

Arrest 'at this school'

At the briefing, as he speculated on the motive for their principal’s murder, Meshack Radebe, deputy speaker of the KZN Legislature, told Villa Maria teachers that they “should be honest”.

“I believe that when an arrest is made, it should be made at this school. The problem stems from within the school,” Radebe said.

Almost two weeks before Magwanyana’s death, the school’s offices were vandalised, with messages threatening that she would be killed if she did not resign painted on the walls.

Sprayed across a board next to the office’s entrance, one of those messages remained on Thursday, the word “resign” written boldly in red paint.

Parts of the office’s walls have had a fresh coat of paint to cover up other threatening messages, one of which police sources say read “Nokuthula resign or ...”, with a sketch of a gun next to the words.

Nkonyeni said that although she strove to see women appointed to higher management positions, she had no idea that it would expose them to danger.

“I strongly believe women are performing jobs just as well as men, and I am saddened to see people elbowing them out of the way because of this,” she told the staff at the school.

“The department understands the trauma you face and the trauma that faces your pupils. The law should take its course,” she said.

Police on Thursday questioned a number of people at the school.

'Puzzled' by threats

The Witness spoke to Sibongiseni Magwanyana, the murdered principal’s husband, who fell to his knees when he saw his wife’s body on Wednesday.

Sibongiseni said the family was “not okay” and had been deeply hurt by her murder.

Sibongiseni described his wife as a “loving and caring person” who was an advocate of women’s empowerment.

He said she was “puzzled” when the threats were made, and she never described any problems at the school to him when they spoke about it.

Magwanyana’s sister, Toyi Mthembu, said she was “born a teacher” because she always taught children at family gatherings and went the extra mile for her pupils.

The sisters lost their mother only a month ago, and Mthembu believes Magwanyana did not inform the family of any troubles at school because she did not want to burden them further.

“To the people who killed her, I wish God grant them peace and forgiveness.

“We are angry, but above all, there is God,” Mthembu said.

Magwanyana leaves behind her husband and two children.

Her funeral is scheduled to take place in Hammarsdale on Saturday next week.

Call for probe

The National Teachers’ Union (Natu) on Thursday called on provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni to establish a “special investigating unit to probe the death of school principals”.

Natu deputy president and spokesperson Allen Thompson said this incident shows that the motive was not robbery.

“We want the police to prioritise murder cases pertaining to principals, teachers or any person who holds a high position in the department of education.

"Principals are not safe, they are threatened every day by people who coerce them on when are they retiring or planning to leave their positions. When a senior person like a principal dies we want this team to dig deep, find perpetrators [who] must face the law.” Thompson said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  education  |  crime

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