Durban - A former uMlazi school principal and her deputy have been found not guilty on charges of housebreaking and theft, perjury and fraud, relating to a break-in at their school.
Nonhlanhla Beauty Nzuza and Themba Eric Mfeka of Maphunzana Combined School were acquitted in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman in KZN, Natasha Ramkisson-Kara, said: “The magistrate in her judgment stated that she found (the) State witnesses to be unreliable.”
Nzuza and Mfeka were arrested in 2012 before they were suspended by the KZN Department of Education after they were charged.
The initial police report stated that before the December 2011 school holidays, the computer room had been broken into and 12 computers had been stolen.
It said Nzuza lodged an insurance claim which was paid out for the computers that were allegedly stolen.
The police investigation led to a search of Nzuza and Mfeka’s homes where the computers were recovered.
However, parents of the school’s pupils who had attended the hearing said they did not believe the pair had stolen the computers.
“The fact that computers were found in their homes did not mean they had stolen them.
“They (Nzuza and Mfeka) were keeping them (computers) away from school because it was going to be school holidays and because of the lack of security at the school, they had to be kept in a safe place,” said one parent, who did not want to be named.
“Even other schools at Umlazi are doing the same because schools are being broken into. The principal took the computers in broad daylight and many people saw her,” said another parent.
The parents said they had been praying for Nzuza and Mfeka to be acquitted to clear their names as they believed they were innocent.
“Their arrest was (reported) on TVs and newspapers. Even the Parliament discussed this. Their names must be cleared so everyone would know the truth,” they said.
Nzuza told the Daily News on Tuesday that she was not yet intending to go back to work.
“I am relieved now that the case has been closed. Maybe I might consider going back to school but I still have to take some time off,” said Nzuza.
She said she had never thought in her life that one day she would spend time in jail.
“I was frightened, being arrested for four days and kept with criminals in a filthy cell with open toilets in the same room I had been sleeping in. I just didn’t know what to do,” said Nzuza.
Nzuza said she was disappointed about the way the Department of Education had handled the case.
“This is discouraging to hear people believing such allegations that I had stolen from a school that I had worked so hard for its improvement,” said Nzuza.
“The department really disappointed me for acting against us before the court gave a verdict,” she said. However, the department’s spokesman, Muzi Mahlambi, said that court proceedings and departmental proceedings were not the same.
“(The) court decides on the basis of beyond reasonable doubt and the department decides on the basis of balance of probability. So somebody can be acquitted by the court but dismissed by the department. On these matters as the department, we found both the principal and the deputy guilty and we dismissed (them) on the same evidence presented by the (school’s) head of department (HOD),” said Mahlambi.
“The principal appealed and was demoted. She therefore resigned. The deputy did not appeal and was then dismissed,” said Mahlambi.
When asked what would happen to the HOD who was the complainant in the case now that Nzuza and Mfeka had been cleared, Mahlambi said: “The evidence of the HOD on the department’s side is still relevant. Anyway the witness may not be charged for evidence delivered.”