Nearly every payday, a KwaZulu-Natal leader of teachers’ union Sadtu, Thembekile Makhanya, allegedly sent pupils to collect R1 000 hidden in a copy of the newspaper Isolezwe.
Pupils from her Grade 2 class were sent to collect the newspaper from Nkonzwenhle Mqadi, a Grade 5 teacher who told City Press this week that he paid Makhanya – also the school’s foundation phase head of department and a governing body member – a bribe for his job.
On other paydays, Mqadi would drive Makhanya, Sadtu’s KwaZulu-Natal convener for sports and recreation, to a local shopping mall and draw the cash before waiting for her to do her shopping.
Mqadi, a former Sadtu activist from KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast, told City Press this week how he had “bought” his job at Sophie Phewa Primary School, about 20km south of central Durban, for R12 000. The agreement, he says, was to pay Makhanya R1 000 a month for the position. But when he could no longer afford to pay after crashing his car, the department stopped paying his salary.
Mqadi reported the matter to a series of provincial education department officials since his salary was first stopped in April 2011.
He has also reported the matter to the Public Protector’s office in Durban, and asked for an investigation into both his bribery claims and what he believes is a subsequent cover-up by circuit, regional and provincial officials.
City Press has seen the emails and copies of letters addressed to at least five senior officials between April 2011 and August this year. The recipients included provincial head of department Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, Umlazi district head Bheki Ntuli and several human resources officials.
He also asked City Press to facilitate a meeting with the Volmink commission appointed to investigate the jobs-for-cash racket.
Mqadi says he now “fears for his life” but chose to come clean about the bribe and other acts of corruption by Sadtu and department officials – including ghost teachers at Sophie Phewa Primary – because he says he has no other choice.
He claims that since his relationship with Makhanya soured, he has been unable to find a permanent teaching post and was “chased” from school to school.
“I have tried so many times to have officials resolve this issue, but have failed. I have followed every possible procedure, but nobody is prepared to listen. Right now, my salary has been stopped because I have been pressuring officials to deal with my case. I have received no letter telling me that – no communication – yet they are stopping my pay,” he said.
Mqadi (48) started out as a temporary teacher in 1986. After completing his BA degree in 1996, he landed a permanent post – but two years later, resigned to study law and work as a journalist.
In 2009, he took up teaching again at the Bahle Bonke Primary School in St Wendolins, Mariannhill. But he needed a job closer to home in Umlazi, and went looking for a transfer.
Mqadi says he approached Makhanya, who he knew from union circles in 2010, after hearing that a job had opened up at her school. After talking to her on the phone, they met at Sadtu House in central Durban, where Makhanya “interviewed” him.
“She told me I would pay her R1 000 a month for the job. I wasn’t told for how many months, but I didn’t ask. I was desperate, so I agreed,” he said.
He delivered his CV and other paperwork to the home of Makhanya’s mother in Umlazi that Sunday in March 2010, and began working at Sophie Phewa the next day. On his arrival, he waited outside the gate for Makhanya and accompanied her inside. She took him straight to the staff room and introduced him to his new colleagues.
“It was Thembikile and not the principal who introduced me,” he said.
Mqadi said that on some paydays he would take Makhanya to the Galleria shopping centre in Amanzimtoti in his car and give her the money in cash. On others, he would get one of her pupils to pick up the bribe.
“In most cases, I hid it inside Isolezwe and she would send a learner to ‘borrow’ the Isolezwe from me at my Grade 5 classroom,” said Mqadi.
Muzi Mahlambi, spokesperson for KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, said Mqadi should lay a criminal charge and report the matter to the commission of inquiry headed by Professor John Volmink, which was appointed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
The commission was appointed in response to City Press’ exposé of a national jobs-for-cash scam being run by union office bearers in cahoots with department officials and members of school governing bodies.
Mahlambi said: “If what he is telling you is true, this is a crime. He must open a case with the police. He must also take the matter to the Volmink Commission. Bribery is a crime in South Africa.”
Makhanya is now a head of department at the Windy Heights Primary School in Isipingo. She was suspended by Sadtu in July for allegedly being part of a caucus outside union structures, but remains on its provincial executive committee (PEC).
She denied Mqadi’s claims, saying there was a possibility that he was lying to cover himself, as he was being disciplined by the department for failing to report for work, that he was a pawn in Sadtu’s internal battles, “or both”.
“I’ve never received any money from that man. I know him because he was employed at Sophie Phewa, where we were working. I don’t know anything about those claims. I cannot make transfers and claim money for it,” said Makhanya.
“What is happening here is that our divisions in Sadtu are emerging. This claim is a lie. What I know is that the department has a case against him.
“How can I, as a head of department, organise a transfer and take money for it?”
On Thursday, Sadtu’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary, Nomarashiya Caluza, confirmed that Makhanya still sat on the union’s PEC. She said she did not know who Mqadi was.
“This is the first I have heard of this. I have no information on this matter. I have not been able to get hold of her,” said Caluza, promising to follow up with Makhanya.
On Friday, Caluza said she had no further comment to make.