The education authorities and teacher union Sadtu are set to face a series of court challenges from aggrieved teachers and principals who believe they are victims of a jobs-for-cash scam run by corrupt department officials in cahoots with their union counterparts.
On Friday, Bo Dlamini, the former principal of Durban’s Brettonwood High School, served a letter of demand for R15 million on the department and Sadtu over his dismissal in 2009, which he believes was the result of a campaign by the union to oust him and replace him.
Dlamini, then a senior official at rival union Natu, made the decision to go to court after reading the report by the Volmink commission of inquiry into the jobs-for-cash scam.
The commission was appointed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in response to a City Press expose in 2014.
The report found that Sadtu, which had “enormous power and influence”, had sought to “entrench itself repeatedly and inexorably”.
“As a form of undue influence or corruption, it opens doors for the use of unorthodox and illegal means to gain advantage. The buying and selling of positions is one such means,” the report said.
“The logical conclusion…is that undue influence, a polite name for corruption, appears to be endemic to greater and lesser degrees in the entire educational system, in offices, in schools, unions and everywhere else,” it added.
In the letter of demand, Dlamini said that he had “real information” that provincial education department officials had “worked together with Sadtu officials in making sure that [Dlamini] was removed from his position of principal of the school”.
In the letter, he names the officials who acted “unlawfully and illegally” in removing him from his post, and those who benefited from the action and said that the department had failed in its duty to protect him as an employee from the manipulation that had taken place.
Outlining the R15 million claim, Dlamini said that the method of operation outlined in the Volmink report, in which students were mobilised against principals to force them out, had been used against him.
In an interview Dlamini said that his career had been “destroyed” by events at Brettonwood.
“My whole career as an educator has been destroyed, everything that I had worked towards all my adult life. My family and I have been badly damaged by this,” he said.
“What appears in the Volmink report vindicates me. I was forced out of office on trumped-up charges in the same way in which the report describes. I believe that I have to go to court to prove my point. It is a matter of principle to me now,” he said.
“I was removed with the use of trumped-up charges. Learners were paid to lie and bring false charges against me.”
Dlamini’s action follows a similar letter of demand for R10 million that is being served on the KwaZulu-Natal education department by Nkonzo Mqadi, who claims he was removed from the system after refusing to continue paying R1 000 a month to Sadtu KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee member Thembekile Makhanya. Mqadi, who gave evidence about the scam to the Volmink commission, has still not been reinstated or paid despite assurances from the province that this would be done.
Mqadi, who is battling cancer, told City Press this week he was continuing with the R10 million law suit against the KwaZulu-Natal education department.
Mqadi made headlines last November with the disclosure that he had paid a bribe for a post at the Sophie Phewa Primary School in Folweni to Makhanya, who he claimed had then used her influence to have him removed from the system when he stopped paying after 12 instalments.
“I am suing the department for unlawful dismissal, which it carried out twice, and for reinstatement. I have received letters of appointment but my salary has not been paid since October last year. I have no medical aid and am battling cancer. My situation is unbearable,” Mqadi said.
Mqadi also wrote to the Public Protector this week requesting intervention.
KwaZulu-Natal education department spokesperson Sicelo Khuzwayo did not respond to calls from City Press. Earlier this year, he said Mqadi’s case was being dealt with.
In the Eastern Cape, the Port Elizabeth Labour Court will sit in November to hear an application by Queenstown teacher Gaynor Rittles, who is challenging the appointment process at St Theresa’s Primary School.
In 2012, Rittles applied for the job and was the best-performing candidate.
However, the post was given to somebody else and she was fired when she questioned the appointment.
Rittles went to court and was reinstated. She wants the labour court to force the department to follow its own selection procedures and appoint her as principal.
Loyiso Pulumani, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape education department, has repeatedly declined to comment on Rittles’ case. He did not answer calls from City Press on Friday.