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Durban - The news of Peggy Nkonyeni’s appointment as new KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC was met with varied reaction from opposition parties and teachers’ unions.
Nkonyeni, was sworn in this morning by Deputy Judge President Achmat Jappie.
She replaces Senzo Mchunu, who held the education portfolio for four years. Mchunu was elected as premier of KwaZulu-Natal on September 26.
The National Teachers Union (Natu) said it welcomed the appointment and was looking forward to working with Nkonyeni, a former teacher.
Natu deputy president Allen Thompson said:
“We are excited that a former teacher has been appointed to this position because it means she understands the ins and out of education. It is also pleasing that she is not new to the cabinet.”
But the IFP was less pleased and pointed to Nkonyeni’s record as health MEC as proof that she was not fit to be appointed MEC.
“It is unfortunate that the ANC does not appoint people to these positions based on their skills. How can she be appointed MEC when she has a cloud hanging over her head,” asked Blessed Gwala, the leader of the IFP in the KZN legislature.
He was referring to the corruption charges brought against Nkonyeni and others in what became known as the “Amigos trial”. The charges against Nkonyeni were withdrawn last year after representations to the National Prosecuting Authority.
“At the heart of this is cadre deployment. The same people who dropped the charges are the product of this cadre deployment.”
He said the IFP would be monitoring Nkonyeni’s performance over the next few months.
Tom Stokes of the DA, believes the appointment had to do with ANC internal politics.
He also questioned why a person accused of corruption would be appointed to what is arguably the most important portfolio in the province.
“But the premier had very little options. The ANC has no capacity or talent. This is also a sign of a power shift within the ANC.”
With superintendent-general Nkosinathi Sishi – a seasoned administrator – said to be running a tight ship, many parties insisted the transition from Mchunu to Nkonyeni would not lead to any destabilisation.
Mchunu said Nkonyeni had served the legislature with loyalty and that her experience as Speaker in an often difficult environment had put her in good stead for her role as MEC.
Nkonyeni said she was humbled by her election as the new MEC and said she knew she had “big boots” to fill.
“I served as an educator so I know it’s not easy to be an educator, but I’m committed to working hard and improving the standard of education.
“Education has been declared a priority and I will treat it as such.”
Asked about what she would focus on, Nkonyeni said she would ensure schools were running effectively.
“I will ensure educators are playing their role and that all schools are starting on time. I want to motivate teachers to do their jobs and motivate learners to love learning.”
She said she would continue in her predecessor’s hands-on approach to the job.