School cleaner fired after heroic act
THE Khayelitsha school cleaner who alerted authorities after she heard a dog was being buried alive on a school’s sportsfield has been fired.
On October 20, the dog – later named Warrior – was hauled from a 1.5m deep pit at Luhlaza Secondary School in Khayelitsha. Breadwinner and mother of two Bukelwa Mbulawa worked as a cleaner in the school’s kitchen.
The principal, Manono Makhaphela, had allegedly ordered two janitors to “get rid” of the stray dog as it was regarded as a nuisance
Mbulawa said a male colleague who walked past the men while the dog was being buried told other cleaners what was happening on the field.
Mbulawa said that as a group, the cleaners decided to alert animal welfare organisation International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
“I had used my phone to call IFAW, but I did not leave my details as I was scared of losing my job,” she said yesterday.
Mbulawa said she took the day off a week after Warrior was saved because she was ill, and when she returned last Friday she found out that she has been fired.
“Colleagues told me the principal called a meeting with the cleaners on Thursday when I was off. They told me he said he knew “everything” and that I was the one who called IFAW and took pictures at the scene. He ordered my colleagues to tell me not to return to work on Friday as I no longer have a job,” Mbulawa said as she broke down in tears.
Mbulawa said she was her family’s breadwinner and has two sons, one of whom is a Luhlaza Secondary pupil.
She also cared for her younger sister, she said.
“I am the only person who earns a salary in my house. Before I worked, I used to go from door to door to beg for food and clothes and until I can find another job, I’ll have to do the same again. Saving Warrior’s life cost me my job, but I do not regret it. It was the right thing to do. I just don’t see why I have to take the blame on my own. We decided as a group that we were going to let the animal welfare know what was happening. The principal could have at least spoken to me to find out my side of the story.”
Makhaphela denied that Mbulawa’s dismissal was connected to Warrior being saved.
“The school simply does not have the funds to pay her salary and for this reason we had to let her go. There is no connection. People are just spreading rumours,” he said.
IFAW co-ordinator Jane Levinson said Mbulawa practiced an “incredible act of compassion… It brings tears to my eyes. I am very sad that someone acting so honourably had to have been treated this way. I believe that in the end there will be justice. In the end, Bukelwa is the hero,” she said.