Education specialist fired from top post for assaulting female colleague
Johannesburg - An education specialist, well decorated in academia, has been fired by the Gauteng Department of Education for assaulting a colleague at the workplace.
Dr Patrick Sikhumbuzo Mandla Mbatha’s marching orders were confirmed last week, after the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) ruled that the department’s decision to fire him for misconduct was procedurally and substantively fair.
Arbitrator Kuvonakala Pretty Chavalala upheld the department’s finding that Mbatha was guilty of assaulting Lerato Makhetha, a female colleague at their district workplace, with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm.
Corroborated evidence before Chavalala was that Mbatha, who was deputy chief education specialist at a district, assaulted Makhetha with fists until she fell. He continued beating and kicking her while she was on the ground, before a male colleague intervened.
Makhetha testified that Mbatha also pulled her wig off, an act she found humiliating because she did not have hair.
The dispute between them concerned a mere R175. Mbatha allegedly owed Makhetha this amount after she settled accommodation bills of several colleagues at a staff function. Mbatha testified that he did not owe Makhetha the money.
He told the arbitration Makhetha taunted him that he was unable to pay her while he lived in a big house with no wife or children, had a doctorate, drove big car and earned a big salary.
Mbatha obtained his PhD from the University of Johannesburg in 2017. His thesis was titled, “Empowering Schools' Stakeholders Through Effective and Efficient Partnerships, Participation and Collaboration to Avert Schooling Decadence”.
Mbatha lost his temper after Makhetha took his cellphones from his office, threatening not to give them back before she got her R175, Chavalala heard.
Makhetha was charged internally for taking the phones. She pleaded guilty and was suspended for one month without pay.
Mbatha submitted before Chavalala that his axing was unfair because Makhetha had provoked him.
He also denied being guilty of a serious assault, saying there was only a scuffle and they both fell to the ground.
Chavalala ruled that the provocation defence did not hold water. “This was not a heat of the moment action,” she wrote in the ruling.
“... After becoming aware of the fact that Makhetha had the phones, he went straight to her and assaulted her.
“There was no immediacy to his reaction. He could have stayed away from the whole incident,” Chavalala said.
“It is thus my finding that the incident did not amount to provocation in its legal definition.”
Mbatha’s clean record over 26 years could not help him, given the seriousness of the charge.
“Considering all these issues, it is my finding that the dismissal is a fair sanction under the circumstances,” Chavalala concluded.