Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Education has confirmed it is investigating allegations of xenophobia and racism levelled against a Boksburg primary school principal.
Earlier this week, recording emerged of a conversation between the principal at Freeway Park Primary school and an educator, in which the principal can be heard threatening to report a Zimbabwean teacher for working without proper documentation after the teacher accused the principal of racism.
In the audio, Mary-Ann van Eeden can repeatedly be heard confronting Portia Chimanikire, in the presence of her personal assistant, for her "betrayal" in accusing van Eeden of racism and not having her South African Council of Teachers (SACE) number as well as a work permit.
"I want you to think of when you were in hospital, who gave you leave? Who supported you and provided you with work since you started here? Who is trying to get you to continuing working here by ensuring you have a Sace number?
"Before you accuse me of racism... who has respected you all these years? I do not appreciate disloyalty and speaking about me to my personal assistant."
"You owe me an apology and a thank you... 'thank you mam for getting me to realise I need my work permit'. Yes I will ask if you are a refugee... I don't know what the difference is. I'm giving you work, now if you want to take this further to the governing body, we can do it today."
The principal goes on to accuse Chimanikire of working without proper documentation and tells her it's unacceptable that van Eeden constantly gets accused of racism when she's taken care of many staff members over the years.
Chimanikire can repeatedly be heard asking if they can discuss this another time but an irate van Eeden denies this request, going on to harshly reprimand Chimanikire and telling her that she will report the matter to the governing body.
"I am going to tell the governing body that you've accused me of racism, just by talking to Gail. You're being disloyal," van Eeden says before Chimanikire interrupts her by reminding her of a previous conversation.
"I said nothing personal, I said a lot of things that are facts, you need to get your Sace number, you need to get your work permit. I asked: 'are you a refugee', I informed you that district does not allow us to employ foreign nationals and that I'm still employing you... I said you're taking the job of a South African, those are all facts."
At this point, Chimanikire breaks down but a relentless van Eeden continues in this vein before threatening to call the district.
This eventually ends with a distraught Chimanikire being comforted by fellow staff members.
Following the leaking of the clip, the DA's Khume Ramulifho confirmed he had written to the MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi, asking him to investigate claims of xenophobia and racism at the school.
The department meanwhile confirmed that it was aware of the incident and was looking into it.
"It was for the first time that this matter was reported... there is a process underway, which will be communicated in due course," spokesperson Steve Mabona said.
"It must be mentioned that the said teacher was appointed by the School Governing Body (SGB), not the principal as alleged."
Mabona went on to deny the principal's claims that the department was not allowed to hire foreign nationals, adding that appointments must conform to policy.
Furthermore, schools were not permitted to make such appointments without the necessary documentation.
"We, have commenced with a necessary intervention in this regard," Mabona said.