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The very, very ugly Grey College you didn’t know

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Staff Reporter

As you walk or drive into Grey College, you are greeted with well-manicured gardens and immaculate buildings that are uniquely tailored to depict the rich culture of the celebrated Bloemfontein school.

But behind those pristine walls is an ugly power struggle that has created turmoil at one of South Africa’s most prestigious schools whose famous alumni includes Olympic gold medallist Ryk Neethling, former Proteas captains Keppler Wessels and Hansie Cronje as well as not less than 46 Springbok players.

Barely a year after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) stopped Grey College’s school governing body (SGB) from demoting a principal they accused of bullying teachers and failing to instil discipline among the learners, the very same SGB has lost another court battle that exposed abuse of office and disregard for laid-down procedure at the school.

In the latest case, 12 members of the SGB that took office in 2018 launched an application asking the Free State High Court to declare unlawful, review and set aside the decision taken on February 28, 2020 by the head of department (HOD) for education in the province, Tsoarelo Malakoane, to terminate their membership of the SGB.

The HOD wielded the axe on the applicants after two investigative reports revealed that the SBG had failed to ensure that the financial and other resources of the school were utilised in a responsible and accountable manner for the full settlement of R100 000 between the school and Amour Shop to the date of the report.

This was despite the out-of-court settlement between the SGB and the owner of Amour Shop and the school having paid R173 490 to Honey Attorneys.

The SGB was also accused breaching the code of conduct for school governing bodies for not referring to district education authorities SGB chairman Henry Buchner’s misconduct for failing to declare his conflict of interest regarding the appointment of his law firm, Honey Attorneys, in the matter involving the “out of court settlement” amount of R100 000 between the school and the Amour Shop owner.

According to the investigative reports, no due processes seemed to have been followed in the appointment of the law firm.

The same governing body was also found to have allowed the recruitment and appointment of at least five individuals without following both the Human Resource Policy of the school and section 20(6) and (8) of the South African Schools Act.

The SGB appointed, without following procedure, Mayrine Geldenhuys and Charlene Hayidakis as administration clerk; one Mrs Mackenzie as marker and administrator for the primary school’s social media; Marelize Vergotti as a social worker; and David Mackenzie as director for water polo.

The school leadership also allegedly changed the job description and made additional payments to one Mrs Van Rooyen without approval of the SGB meeting.

On January 28, 2020, the HOD wrote a letter to the individual SGB members wherein he expressed his intention to suspend or terminate their membership of the Grey College governing body.

In the same letter, Malakoane invited the SGB members to make representations to him within 21 days from the date of the letter on why their respective membership should not be terminated or suspended.

Only Machini Motloung and Advocate Pieterse made representations to him.

On February 7, 2020, the rest of the SGB members – Büchner, N Grobler, F Mokoena, L Koupis, R Coetzer, J Liebenberg, A Hayidakis, J Van Den Berg, P Potgieter, M Matsoho, P Zietsman and G Henning – through their attorneys sent a letter to HOD informing him, among other things, that there were no disciplinary committee proceedings which empowered him to terminate their membership of the governing body.

As a result, they were requesting Malakoane to withdraw or rescind his letter stating his intention to suspend or terminate their membership.

According to records, on the same day the HOD wrote to the SGB members, the SGB wrote a similar letter to the Grey secondary school principal, Scheepers, inviting him to give reasons why steps should not be taken against him for the same transgressions as those levelled against the SGB and more.

On February 13, 2020, the SGB held an urgent meeting where it was decided that all the allegations referred to in the HOD’s letter of 28 January, 2020, be referred to the SGB disciplinary committee.

That decision was taken after the SGB came to the conclusion that the allegations were of a serious nature warranting referral to a disciplinary committee.

On February 26, 2020, the SGB members lodged an application in the High Court challenging the intended termination of their SGB membership.

Two days later, Malakoane proceeded to terminate the applicants’ SGB membership.

The SGB then successfully lodged an urgent application in the High Court to put on hold the HOD’s decision to terminate their membership pending the final adjudication of an application by the applicants for the review and setting aside of that decision.

On March 9, 2020, the SGB members launched an appeal to the MEC for Education, Tate Makgoe, against the HOD’s decision.

The MEC dismissed their appeal on 27 July, 2020.

In the background, the Grey secondary school principal, Scheepers, was fighting to save his job after the SGB stripped him of virtually all his responsibilities as headmaster.

At a meeting held on May 15, 2018, the SGB had passed a resolution to withdraw the “rights” and “duties” that it had ostensibly delegated to the principal.

Announcing the decision, SGB chairman Büchner cited the breakdown of trust between the body and Scheepers who was appointed principal in 2013.

After a few years of his rocky tenure at the helm of the school, the SGB then alleged he was not equipped to handle complex racial issues, was not approachable to parents and did not enjoy the respect of learners because he was “not emotionally connected to them”.

Apart from accusing him of victimising educators and bullying them, the body also claimed that, with Scheepers in charge, there was a lack of visible discipline at Grey which impacted on the school’s academic performance.

The SGB then appointed Grey primary school principal Jurie Geldenhuys to manage all school activities of the secondary school, except for teaching and learning.

The decision to withdraw Scheepers’ powers was set aside by the High Court on September 6, 2018, a decision that went on to be confirmed by the SCA on 3 July, 2020 after the SGB’s appeal fell through.

In their case against the HOD, the SGB members decried the alleged failure by Malakoane to observe the code of conduct for the school governing bodies when the decision to terminate their membership was taken.

They criticised the speed at which their membership was terminated while the HOD was allegedly slow to dismiss the principal “who is also accused of worst transgressions”.

However, Judge Nobulawo Martha Mbhele dismissed the SGB members’ application with costs.

In her ruling handed down on March 18, 2021, the judge noted the investigative reports that prompted the HOD to intervene alleged serious acts of misconduct against the applicants which called for disciplinary processes as prescribed in the code of conduct.

“Learning and governance had to proceed and it was necessary for the HOD to intervene,” she said.

“The parties were afforded time to plead their case with the HOD and they failed.

“The HOD had to act to safeguard the interests of all parties involved.

“For all the reasons stated above, the application for review must fail.”

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall

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DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung speaker vows not to be silenced by charges

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DEFIANT . . . Mangaung council speaker Stefani Lockman-Naidoo

Mangaung council speaker Stefani Lockman-Naidoo has vowed not to stop fighting corruption in the metro after she was summoned to a disciplinary hearing set for next month for disobeying her party, the ANC, resulting in the axing and suspension of senior officials in the municipality.

The ANC Mangaung Interim Regional Committee (IRC) has summoned her to a disciplinary hearing on June 7 to answer to charges of knowingly and intentionally defying a resolution of the ANC Caucus in council after she allowed a motion to be debated without referring it to party structures in the council.

Lockman-Naidoo’s tiff with her party dates back to January when the Mangaung IRC announced her suspension after she was accused of defying the ANC’s instruction no to proceed with a sitting which resulted in then acting city manager Sello More being removed from office.

The Mangaung speaker also told The Free Stater on Thursday that she was being targeted for presiding over a recent council sitting that resolved to suspend several allegedly corrupt officials in the municipality.

“We are being charged for suspending a corrupt HOD (head of department),” said Lockman-Naidoo, referring to David Nkaiseng who heads corporate services.

A council meeting held on May 12 – after receiving an investigation report from Matlho Attorneys – resolved, among others, to bring charges against Nkaiseng for his alleged role in unlawfully appointing the officials resulting in the flouting of municipal policy of appointment of officials as well as flouting municipal staff regulations and the code of conduct for municipal officials.

“We are being targeted because we are purging these corrupt officials of Mangaung,” charged Lockman-Naidoo.

“I will not tolerate any corruption . . . Wherever I go I will be known as that speaker that didn’t tolerate corruption,” she added confidently.

The speaker was however quick to point out that those charging her had no authority to do so.

“But you see, the charges are not from the ANC because they didn’t ask for permission from the provincial coordinator (Paseka Nompondo) to charge us,” she said.

“The region itself is an illegitimate structure. Its term has expired and these are just factions . . .

“It’s a faction of the region that is charging us – it’s not the ANC.

“They are the ones that are purging us because we are not part of their faction.

“This is what’s going on. They don’t tolerate me.”

Lockman-Naidoo claimed the faction was not happy with the suspension of the HOD.

“The council resolution . . . says several criminal charges must be opened against the HOD himself and relevant officials,” she said.

“And I’m wrong for suspending a person like that?

“I don’t mind being charged at all because we did the right thing as council.

“They are saying . . . they are charging us because I allowed the item to sit in council.

“It’s not my item – it’s a council item. I couldn’t remove it. There was nothing I could do.”

Council also resolved that Nzimeni Maswabi be charged by acting city manager for his role in approving unlawful staff appointments.

It also wants Thabang Joseph Mpeli to be charged for his role in the drafting of unlawful appointment letters.

However, ANC Mangaung IRC spokesperson Ncamisa Ngxangisa has dismissed Lockman-Naidoo’s claims saying the party was not targeting anyone but it simply wanted to put its house in order.

In a separate interview, Ngxangisa said there were concerns some councillors could be working with the opposition, hence the probe.

“We are not targeting individuals. We are dealing with members of the ANC who happen to be councillors in this regard,” he told The Free Stater.

“This is after we received concerns that there could be some members who are voting with the opposition, against the position of the caucus of the ANC in that municipality.

“We took everything as it is, and referred the matter to our sub-committee that deals with issues of discipline so that they inquire into all these allegations levelled against all these comrades.

“But at the same time, it gives these comrades an opportunity to respond or query any evidence that may be presented against them.”

Ngxangisa said every organisation implements disciplinary processes when something goes wrong and the ANC was only exercising its right to do so.

“We are a political party, we contest elections,” he said.

“We are relying on our councillors to make sure that our policy position and decisions find expression in that council.

“If there are allegations that such is not happening, any self-loving political party will stand up and do something about it.

“These accusations are neither here nor there – no one is targeted.

“There are concerns that the centre is not holding in that municipality.

“Our caucus through the chief whip is not given enough support by our councillors and there are such allegations.

“That’s a cause for serious concern which must be attended to so that the ANC can at least enjoy its majority in that municipality.”

The Mangaung IRC spokesperson emphasised that the ANC was firmly against any corrupt activities but indicated that councillors were expected to represent the interests of the party and not their own.

“When we say all councillors must toe this line, we expect everyone to toe that line. Anyone who goes astray is a concern to us,” he said.  – Staff Reporter

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Centlec warns cable theft masterminds

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STOLEN . . . Part of the copper cable recovered by the police

Power distribution company Centlec has issued a stern warning to people believed to be hired by unknown individuals or syndicates to steal copper cables from the power lines saying it will not allow them to destroy such key infrastructure and put the country’s economy at risk.

“This is war and we will fight it tooth and nail,” said Centlec in a statement.

“We want to send a strong message to the criminals and their handlers that we will not rest until they are behind bars,” added the company, which distributes electricity to Mangaung and surrounding municipalities.

It said it is aware that most of the criminals are just fronts who are sent by kingpins who then process the copper before selling it.

Centlec warned the kingpins that they would soon face the full might of the law.

“Some of the fronts happen to be vulnerable foreign nationals who are being used to steal our cables by their handlers,” said the company.

A joint operation by Centlec and the police in recent weeks has led to several arrests and the recovery of hundreds of kilogrammes of copper cable destined for scrapyards.

In the latest three incidents, a man was arrested in Botshabelo after being found in possession of copper cable believed to have been stolen.

Several people were also arrested following inspections at two scrapyards in Botshabelo where large amounts of copper were found.

At a scrapyard in Bloemfontein, a man was issued with a fine after he was found with copper weighing 150kg which he failed to account for.

Investigations are still underway to ascertain the real owner of the scrapyard for possible arrest.

“We are worried that many of these scrapyards are becoming a haven for criminals and promoting criminality,” said Centlec chief executive officer Malefane Sekoboto. – Staff Reporter

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