School stands by mayor’s killer

2013-07-29 00:00

A DURBAN school that offers failed matric pupils a second chance, is in turn offering convicted murderer Gareth Thomas a second chance at life.

Thomas, who was convicted of the murder of former Durban mayor Mike Lipschitz in 2001, will continue to teach at Futura High School, the school’s governing body and principal Roger Owen said in a statement yesterday.

The school said it had the backing of pupils, parents, concerned citizens and academics, who believed that Thomas was rehabilitated and should be allowed to continue teaching.

The Sunday Tribune reported earlier this month that Thomas, who confessed to and was sentenced to 20 years’ jail for Lipschitz’s murder in 2002, had secured himself a teaching job at the school.

It emerged during the trial that Lipschitz had picked up Thomas and his friend Dirk Ackerman, and paid them for a massage.

The two were arrested on the day of the murder and Ackerman later turned state witness.

Thirty-year-old Thomas, who was 18 when he was convicted, was released on parole in 2010, after serving eight years of his 20-year sentence.

He landed his teaching job in March, after changing his name to Daniel Joseph.

The school statement said: “Daniel Joseph Thomas was employed on a fixed-term contract to present a non-academic, life skills programme for the 2013 academic year.

“With the majority of pupils writing Grade 12, we are currently completing the syllabus and entering the final phase of the matric exam preparations for 2013.

“The school prefers to keep disruptions to a minimum at this stage and has decided to allow Mr Joseph to continue with his contract while closely monitoring the life skills programme for any negative influence arising from his history.”

The statement also noted that Thomas was a changed man: “Daniel is now a father, a married man and a committed Christian who has furthered his studies and is no longer the same 18-year-old youth he once was.

“The majority of pupils are 18 years or over, with many of them repeating matric for the second time.”

Owen spoke to Joseph’s classes at the beginning of the week, explained the situation to them and invited input and feedback.

“It was apparent that in excess of 80% of the pupils requested Mr Joseph be allowed to complete the life skills programme with them, as they believe they have benefited significantly from his input to date.

“Parents were invited to contact the principal if they had any concerns.

“To date, no negative feedback or concerns have been received from parents, while several concerned citizens and academics (including principals of other schools) have expressed support for Mr Joseph.”

Thomas continued with the life skills programme at the end of last week, explaining to the pupils about choices and the consequences and dangers of drug addiction.

This was in line with the programme’s goals of helping pupils cope with the myriad social and economic challenges they faced coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Lipschitz’s widow, Carolann, who had told the Tribune that she questioned whether Thomas should be entrusted with the lives of school children, did not want to comment on the school’s stance yesterday.

The Correctional Services Department’s parole supervision committee interviewed Thomas last week, spokesperson Nokuthula Zikhali said.

She would not discuss the content of the discussions, but said the investigation into whether Thomas had registered a new ID under a different name and surname, without notifying the department, was continuing.

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