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Durban - A principal at a Newcastle school has collected more than R2 million in pay while sitting at home on suspension for the past four years.
Excellent Bha Simelane of Ncandu Combined School in Newcastle was suspended in 2014 on allegations related to the assault of a pupil.

He has denied the allegations and described them as a smear campaign.

A disciplinary hearing convened by the Department of Education in December 2014 found him guilty, and ruled he should be demoted to the post of deputy principal.

Another disciplinary hearing led by the SA Council of Educators (Sace) also found him guilty and ruled he should be demoted to a level 1 teacher. Simelane had been a teacher since 1991.

Both disciplinary processes, which he appealed against, ruled that he be fined R10 000.

Simelane earns about R536 000 a year, and in the past four years has earned about R2.1m. This excludes bonuses of about R170 000 that he has earned over the same period. He also receives the salary increments due to employees each year.

“He is on full payment, he does not have to sign anywhere to get paid. How does the department even know that he is still in the province? He could be in Cape Town and no one would be any the wiser,” said a source.

The source added that the principal had been given five days to appeal after the judgments were passed, but the department had not responded to that appeal in four years.

“The department was supposed to tell him if his appeal had been rejected, and then place him at a school where he would be the deputy principal or the post level 1 teacher, depending on what it decided to enforce.

“This whole process has been unfair to him. Justice delayed is justice denied, and he has been denied justice.”

Simelane said all he wanted was to clear his name and return to work.

He described the allegations against him as a ploy to force him out of the job.

“I did not want to speak publicly about this matter because I wanted to exhaust internal processes, but I have no choice. My name has been smeared.

“Every morning I wake up and tend to my garden, and I do maintenance in the house instead of being at work. I earn a salary, I get bonuses and salary increments, and yet I feel like a fraudster and someone abusing taxpayers because while the money is due to me, I have not earned it,” he said.

Themba Ndhlovu of Sace said they were aware of the case.

“We confirm that this educator appealed against his sanction. The appeal has not been able to sit as the recording device with all the recordings relating to this case was stolen when the prosecutor’s car was broken into.”

The Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment.

IFP MPL and member of the education portfolio committee, Thembeni Madlopha Mthethwa, said such a long suspension was unacceptable.

“If he has done something wrong he must be removed. If not, he must go back to work.”

DA MPL and education portfolio committee member Dr Rishigen Viranna said: “One of the problems is that the department suspended the head of legal services, and that is why it is difficult to finalise cases of errant teachers.”

Sipho KK Nkosi, the chairperson of the finance portfolio committee, said they had on numerous occasions urged the department to quickly finalise disciplinary processes in order to protect their finances.

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The Mercury