The Department of Basic Education is investigating allegations that a white Laudium Primary School principal prevented a black teacher from hosting the school’s end-of-year awards ceremony because he was wearing “inappropriate” Swati traditional attire.
Disappointed and hurt, the Grade 2 teacher, Mlandvo Dlamini, caused a stir on social media on Thursday when he publicly called the principal a racist who disrespected the Swati tradition.
He said the principal had barred him because his dress was inappropriate, but he was planning to wear an academic gown over it.
The incident comes just days after Gautrain management apologised to Thando Mahlangu who was prevented by security from boarding a train at Park Station in traditional Ndebele attire deemed inappropriate.
Gautrain described this as an isolated incident, and said it fully supported and embraced diversity.
Dlamini made another video and tagged MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi on Twitter to ask for advice, since he did not think his attire was inappropriate. He said he felt targeted because there was no communicated dress code for the event.
“Interestingly, quite a lot of parents came to the award ceremony adorned in their traditional regalia,” he said.
“I have experienced a lot of racially motivated challenges but this was my breaking point. At some point I was admitted to Vista Clinic for stress and depression due to racially motivated occurrences,” he told Pretoria News.
Education Department spokesperson Steve Mabona told Pretoria News that the department was shocked and disappointed to learn about the incident. Officials were sent to investigate the matter and he promised appropriate action would be taken.
“Social cohesion dictates that we should be tolerant and embrace all cultures in our environment.
“Dlamini wrote a letter to the school governing body detailing how he was allegedly summoned to the grass area behind the staff room.
“In full view of both parents and learners, he was asked by the principal about his ‘dress code’,” Mabona said.
Surprise and interested as what could have brought about such “rage” regarding his traditional attire, he said he asked for an explanation.
He claims he was told that what he was wearing was unacceptable, and not allowed for the function.
“I then explained to him that I was dressed in my full Swati traditional attire, which was especially for such events.
“Unfortunately, he immediately interrupted in my explanation to repeat that I was dressed inappropriately and such a dress code was not acceptable.
“He proceeded to tell me I was supposed to be dressed in a ‘decent shirt and tie’ for this particular function.”
Dlamini wrote that he explained that “besides the fact that there was not a specific prior dress-code discussion for the event, nor a policy in place against wearing traditional or cultural wear at school functions”, he wanted clarity and a proper explanation for the reprimand.