Waterkloof principal quits

By Hanti Otto Time of article published Apr 16, 2009

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The executive principal of one of Pretoria's top schools and one of his deputies have resigned under a cloud of suspicion.

Dr Christo Becker and his deputy, Andre Eloff, are alleged to have been involved in massive misappropriation of funds at Waterkloof High School.

Becker, father of Christoff, one of the so-called Waterkloof Four currently serving a 12-year sentence for murder and assault, and Eloff have apparently been implicated, along with two women in the school's administration section, in the maladministration of mainly school funds, apparently running into millions of rands.

The alleged offences occurred over the past four years.

Pupils at the school on Wednesday received a letter from Lukas Coetsee, chairperson of the school governing body.

Addressed to the parents, the letter stated that a forensic investigation requested by the governing body had indicated possible financial irregularities.

It stated in Afrikaans: "Following this, the executive principal, Dr LC Becker and Mr AD Eloff, deputy executive principal, indicated that they would hand in their resignations to the Gauteng Department of Education."

The two women from the school's financial office were on leave pending further investigation.

A governing body committee will manage the school while discussions continue with the department. This includes the appointment of locum staff.

"The school relies on the loyalty and support of the parents during this time," the letter concluded.

Coetsee said last night that the governing body had had "certain questions" regarding the school's finances for "quite a while".

Last year they had requested an extraordinary audit.

However, this, and the normal annual audit, were clean.

"But we were still unhappy about a few issues.

"So in December 2008 we asked for a forensic audit. We received the final result this past Monday. On the strength of that we felt there should be further action and that the four staff members should be put on leave so that we could contact the department," Coetsee said.

However, he was informed that Becker and Eloff had resigned before they could be put on compulsory leave.

Coetsee said the Education Department would decide what would happen next. The governing body was to meet the department today to decide what further steps to take. He made it clear that no criminal case had been opened yet.

Coetsee confirmed that the audits included financial statements for the past four years, saying the apparent financial irregularities could have stemmed from as far back as then.

The governing body had also kept the department informed "from day one".

"We don't want to sweep anything under the carpet," Coetsee said.

Angry parents have lashed out at Becker. Some claimed the money was used to fund his son's long legal battle to stay out of prison.

"Is this a case of 'like father like son'?" one parent asked. Others said the issue had "opened a huge can of worms".

Neither Becker nor the Education Department could be reached for comment on Wednesday night.

But Becker's wife, Mariette, said on Wednesday night they were involved in discussions with the governing body to "solve misunderstandings".

She said her husband was approached by another school in 1998 to become the principal.

The then governing body at Waterkloof apparently asked him to stay, offering him the same privileges and more than he was offered by "the other school".

"A contract was signed regarding this with the former governing body. Then the whole thing with our son happened, so we did not think much about this contract. When the new governing body was appointed, certain misunderstandings and disputes arose," she said.

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