It is perhaps not by default but by design that Theo van Rensburg is the first respondent in the court case between the Davidsonville Community Forum and the Gauteng education department.
Last month, frustrated MEC Panyaza Lesufi rushed to the South Gauteng High Court to interdict the forum from disrupting teaching and learning at Roodepoort Primary School.
Van Rensburg serves as vice-chairman of the forum.
His vivacious character, hair-trigger temper and sense of authority are perhaps what set the forum on a collision course with Lesufi – who in the end successfully did interdict the body from disrupting the school.
Van Rensburg is one of the forum’s most vocal members and his lithe frame and dark, hawkish eyes give him the appearance of a man with an unflagging appetite for controversy.
But for all his zeal, Van Rensburg doesn’t even have children at the school. His two boys are long grown up.
He says he became involved because of his passion for sport.
“I’m the chairman of the Roodepoort Sport Development Foundation. There hasn’t been any sport at the school since the arrival of [principal Nomathemba] Molefe,” he says.
“I wrote her several letters and made numerous attempts to meet her to revive sport, but in vain.
“That is why I decided to get involved.”
Van Rensburg won’t reveal much about himself, not even his age. All he will say is that he has lived in Davidsonville for 51 years.
Roodepoort Primary has seen little teaching or learning since the beginning of the year. In court papers, Lesufi accuses Van Rensburg and his forum of creating a combustible situation, and putting the school and its neighbourhood on a knife edge.
Since October, the forum has demanded the axing of Molefe and her two deputies, arguing that their appointments were irregular.
Lesufi instituted two investigations – one into their appointments, and the other into allegations of financial misconduct and corruption – but they came up with nothing.
Lesufi came to an inevitable conclusion, accusing the forum of “not wanting a black principal”.
Van Rensburg vehemently denies his forum is racist.
“We have lovingly accepted 80 black kids and 16 black teachers into our school. It shows we are not racist. There are 17 churches here and we are peace loving,” he fumes.
“If we are racists, why did we allow all the other black teachers to remain at the school when we had problems? Those who left did so because they support the principal.”
Van Rensburg is a well-known soccer coach in the emerging middle class neighbourhood where, according to census statistics, households earn an annual salary of R115 000 a year.
Nearly half its residents’ home language is Afrikaans.
Most of his players are black, he says.
“Most of my youngsters are from Lindhaven, Groblerpark, Hlongwane and Matholeville.
“Two of my black boys were recently robbed by two coloured guys and I performed a
citizen’s arrest. They are still in jail. Where is
Van Rensburg and his forum still hold on to their belief that there were irregularities in the appointments.
“The school governing body was declared dysfunctional during interviews.
“The seal of the envelope carrying all the applicants’ CVs was broken. An objection was lodged, but the process still went ahead, and the interviews were done at Culembeeck Primary School in Witpoortjie,” he says.
The forum’s favoured candidate, former acting principal Harold Strauss, was disqualified because some pages of his CV were missing and he had not signed some application forms.
“Some documents were taken out of his CV and he was disqualified. He has a teaching degree and he has been a teacher for 19 years. Our argument is that he was not even short-listed.”
Van Rensburg insists the department bypassed the school’s heads of departments when appointing the deputy principals, and appointed a junior teacher instead.
“We don’t have a problem with a black principal. We actually don’t even have a problem with Molefe.
“You can even give us another black principal, but we will not accept corruption,” he says.