So racially toxic was the situation at Klipspruit West Secondary School that a learner took his own life after a heated altercation with one of the teachers.
This was one of the revelations shared by Khaphane Moloi, one of the four teachers who bore the brunt of the alleged racist treatment by some parents at the school.
“He (the learner) had an altercation with a teacher at the school. I am not sure if he was wrong but he felt slighted when he was singled out and told not to set foot the following Monday. He does not have parents. And that Monday he hanged himself. I strongly feel his suicide could have been as a result of racism that manifested itself at school,” Moloi said.
Another teacher, Fallon Murhombo, said she gets on well with her coloured learners and they were always worried about her safety. “They informed me beforehand that I must be careful as there will be lockout of black teachers,” she said
Her colleague, Flora Sibidla, said this was a witch-hunt targeted at black teachers. “I mean they accuse us of the very same things that our coloured colleagues also do. Yet they single us out. In the end, we are human and we do slip here and there,” said an agitated Sibidla.
David Vuma, also a teacher, told the hearing that tension at school was instigated by outside elements. He said it was an open secret that Patriots for Equality (PfE) and the Eldorado Park Business Forum captured the school.
“The whole thing revolves around [their] business interests. They have been having things their way and they felt threatened by the appointment of a black principal,” said Vuma.
He tore into Rita Davis, who testified before them.
“I used to greet her and actually took her as my mother. But I cannot anymore after I saw her other [racist] side,” said Vuma.
He said contrary to parents’ claims since he joined the school ten years ago he always produced good results.
“I am not bragging they know that,” said Vuma.
Earlier in her submission, Davis – a former school governing body member before Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, dissolved the structure – contradicted herself several times.
“The community was concerned that the “rotten” black teachers at the school would take advantage if a principal was appointed”, she said.
Asked if she was not opposing the appointment of the black principal, Davis said: “From my knowledge, there were 29 applications and 11 were coloured but there was not even one coloured for an interview or shortlisting.”
“Do you mean the appointed candidate should have been coloured? Davis answered ‘No”.
In its testimony, early in the morning, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) also blamed the racial flare up at the school on Patriots for Equality.
Moses Maluleke and Desmond Luvhengo (Sadtu’s regional secretary and branch chairperson) respectively, made submissions. They said the group started the disruptions in 2015 at Roodepoort Primary School in Davidsonville – another majority-coloured residential area.
“This group seems to be advancing their own interest by strategically using schools as battlegrounds. They know that disruption of learning and teaching will force the authorities to listen to them. Yet they raise issues that are completely unrelated to education,” said Maluleke.
He said after causing chaos at Roodepoort Primary School the group then went to Noordgesig and now “resurfaced again in Klipspruit”.
“Our observation some of their members have business interest as they always insist that all school-based projects should be given to the locals. What is more, some of them do not have children at the school. So, on what basis do they come and disrupt learning and teaching here at KWSS?” asked Maluleke.
Luvhengo said: “racism is rife in the area making it very difficult for one to work there”.
Referring to the disputed appointment of the principal, Luvhego said, every time a black African teacher was up for promotion, the Patriots for Equality objected. He said he and a Naptosa representative observed the appointment process and were satisfied everything went well. He said during the interview, the deputy-chairperson of the panel excused himself because he wanted a coloured candidate to score more point because it was “their territory”.
But the audience was surprised when Sadtu delegation vehemently rejected the infamous “Vat Alles” slogan, which has always been associated with Sadtu. It is believed this was Sadtu’s deliberate strategy of ensuring that its members were appointed to top positions across the entire education system. The recent ‘Jobs for pals’ scandal, which implicated some members of the union, is directly linked to this position.
“We know nothing about that, it doesn’t exist. To us this is just an attempt by PfE (Patriots for Equality) to discredit Sadtu and inflame the emotions of the community,” said Maluleke.
Maluleke said they regretted withdrawing their members from the schools: “The decision was taken out of frustration after parents locked out our members. It was a reaction out of anger and a need for security,” said Maluleke.