A principal of a high profile private school in Mpumalanga has been fired after being arrested in connection with an international child pornography syndicate. File photo: Reuters

White River, Mpumalanga - A principal of a high profile private school in Mpumalanga has been fired after being arrested in connection with an international child pornography syndicate.

The man who cannot be named until he pleads appeared in the White River Magistrate's Court on Wednesday and was released on R1000 bail, a Sapa correspondent reported.

“Today, we have come up with an agreement to terminate his position in the school,” the school board announced in a statement on Wednesday.

The board said it regarded the allegation in the most serious light while respecting his constitutionally protected right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The accused, who is an award-winning author, has been headmaster at the preparatory school for the past three years.

The board described him as a man “characterised by exceptional professionalism,” who also enjoyed the respect of his teaching colleagues, parents and pupils alike.

He is suspected of being part of a syndicate, which includes five other people across the country.

A total of six professionals have appeared in courts throughout the country for child pornography.

The six included two teachers and a retired principal, a lawyer, a dermatologist, and a businessman.

Police spokesman Lt-Gen Solomon Makgale said the accused were arrested in Lichtenburg, Bloemfontein, White River, Douglasdale, Florida, and Potchefstroom.

“They are all suspected to have been involved in an international child pornography syndicate,” said Makgale.

Makgale said police were investigating whether the six were involved in distribution and manufacturing of child pornography, and if they were linked to an international syndicate.

At the weekend, police raided several homes in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Free State.

Among the items seized were 672 dvds, 22 memory sticks, eight laptops, two computer tablets, 39 external hard drives, and 25

books containing child porn.

The Times reported the case had links to Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Western Europe, and Australasia.

It reported that children as young as five were believed to have been groomed to have sex with each other and adults. The images were believed to have been generated overseas, and local police - with the help of their international counterparts - were investigating whether South African children were involved.

Their cases were postponed in court and they would appear separately on different dates in the next two months.

The Film and Publications Board (FPB) commended police for the arrests.

FPB acting CEO Jonas Phoshoko expressed disappointment at the fact that the crimes were committed by those who ought to be protectors.

“Looking at the profile of those arrested, it affirms that these crimes attract even the most trusted within society,” he said in a statement.

He hoped those found in transgression of the Film and Publications Act by being in possession, creating or distributing child pornography would be severely punished if found guilty.

Phoshoko urged parents to be vigilant and guard their children against potential abusers, both physically and on the internet.

Sapa