KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Senzo Mchunu

More than 70 KwaZulu-Natal Education Department staff, including some principals and heads of department, are facing disciplinary hearings for a host of offences including mismanaging their schools’ accounts, faking their qualifications, assault and rape.

Included on the list of perpetrators presented to members of the provincial legislature’s portfolio committee on education on Friday were 18 principals and their deputies, 36 teachers, and five subject heads. There were also two security guards and a driver.

But MPLs believe there are many more who need to be brought to book and that, in some cases, department officials were intentionally bungling cases so that people could keep their jobs.

ANC MPL and chairman of the standing committee on public accounts, Sipho Nkosi, said that some people were deliberately “let off the hook” when there was clear evidence of criminality.

Nkosi was indignant that 10 staff, who had been suspended, continued to receive a salary.

KZN Education MEC Senzo Mchunu said that this year the department was still dealing with cases that dated back to 2010, because of the “mess” that had been allowed to develop over time. He has been in charge of the department since 2009.

Mchunu assured MPLs that the matters were being swiftly dealt with and explained that criminal investigations by the police ran parallel to the department’s own probes.

Other instances of misconduct reported at the meeting were gross insubordination, absenteeism, non-performance and alcohol abuse.

Committee members questioned why, according to the information at hand, there were staffers accused of sexual offences who had not been suspended.

Three teachers, one of whom had married a pupil, continued to work in schools with children.

Mchunu responded that he had previously tasked the head of department, Nkosinathi Sishi, with investigating such cases, and believed that the contents of the report before the MPLs could contain some errors or omissions.

Nkosi and education committee chairwoman Linda Hlongwa said they knew of cases – one of embezzlement – that were not on the department’s list.

Nkosi said it involved a school that had been given millions of rand in funding for learning material, but teachers still resorted to photocopying textbooks.

Mchunu said he was alarmed at the number of employees who owed money to the department and that, where funds had been stolen, the money was then deducted from the perpetrator’s pension.

Sishi pledged his commitment to aggressively weeding out corruption, saying a campaign with that aim would be launched in October.