After numerous death threats, the Eastern Cape’s education chief Modidima Mannya quit his job and fled the province on Tuesday, January 23 — but returned two days later when he was offered protection.
Barely four months after assuming office as superintendent general of education in Bisho, Mannya and his family fed up with numerous death threats and being tailed by cars wherever he went packed their bags and fled to Johannesburg.
It is believed the threats stemmed from his successful anti-corruption crusade. A bodyguard had been assigned to protect Mannya after he raised concerns about his safety with MEC for Education Stone Sizani. However, the bodyguard was withdrawn when Pretoria told Bisho this constituted unauthorised expenditure.
Eastern Cape Premier Makhenkesi Stofile has, as part of Mannya’s agreement to return to the province, provided him with two bodyguards. Stofile said the Scorpions, the VIP protection unit and the crime intelligence unit have been tasked to investigate the death threats. Mannya was not available for comment.
Last month Mannya asked three chief directors in his department to sign a letter stating that they accepted public responsibility for the Department of Education’s problems and sent it to the media for publication. The directors asked for forgiveness from the community and asked to be given a second chance to reshape the department.
Mannya also suspended three directors for providing the department with incorrect information on the redeployment of teachers. On Thursday January 18 senior officials in the education department, including Director General Philip Qokweni and finance director Phindiswa Mdikane, delivered an extraordinary written apology to Stofile for the disasters dogging the department.
In their statement of apology, about 50 heads of department admitted they had failed the government and the people of the Eastern Cape “appallingly”. They promised to improve their work and committed themselves to the province and its leadership. They accepted responsibility for the high failure and school dropout rates and for teachers who had gone without salaries and benefits for long periods.
In his response, Stofile said it was “laziness and corruption” which were hampering the process of successful delivery in the province. “All of you will one day be old and will experience what it feels like to be denied your pension money,” he told them.
The HRC said in a statement this week that the Constitution requires the state to “respect, promote and fulfil” the rights afforded to its citizens as stipulated in the Bill of Rights. The departments were to have submitted reports to the HRC by July 7 last year. The deadlines were later twice extended.
The alleged failure by the departments to respond to the HRC request is hardly surprising. Only last week in just one of several recent scathing judgements levelled against the departments by the Port Elizabeth and the Grahamstown High Courts Port Elizabeth Judge Frank Kroon slammed the education and welfare departments for ignoring a court order compelling the departments to perform their duties.
In one case the Department of Education has failed to pay a pension to a Port Elizabeth teacher who retired in 1997. Citing the education department’s lax attitude, Judge Kroon said: “The relevant officials do not treat particular cases with any sense of urgency or responsibility. “The officials concerned have not done their work properly and, secondly, … they have caused a disservice and an injustice to citizens of this country.”
The judge also expressed his concern about the substantial costs involved with every civil action filed against the department and which would, in due course, have to be paid by the Bisho administration and the taxpayers.