A new fighter in the KZN ring

In one of his first tasks since his appointment as MEC in charge of Education, Culture and Sport in KwaZulu-Natal, Lindumusa Gabriel Ndabandaba has begun proceedings to dismiss an educator who was absent from school for a long period claiming he feared for his safety.

Ndabandaba said he will adopt a hard-line against educators who “gave false stories” and were absent from school for long periods.

“I will not tolerate this.
We are all exposed to hazards in our job. I cannot tell the President [Thabo Mbeki] or the Premier [Lionel Mtshali] that I cannot attend to my duties because I am afraid for my safety. It is a lame excuse,” he said.

The Teacher reported in June that scores of educators absented themselves from schools throughout KwaZulu-Natal because they feared for their safety.

He pledged to tackle this and other pressing problems “head on”, to revive a culture of learning and teaching in the province.

Ndabandaba (66) was a Member of Parliament and belonged to several committees, including the Education Portfolio and Justice committees.

Since his appointment late last month, Ndabandaba, a father of eight, has been familiarising himself with the operations of the education department. “I am still working out my vision. My key challenges include restoring dignity to the department, improving the matriculation results and raising the morale of teachers,” he said.

Ndabandaba’s predecessors, Vincent Zulu, Eileen Shandu and Faith Gasa, left under controversial circumstances and collectively presided over the worst matric results in the country and one controversy after another.

“This job does not scare me. It urges me to work harder and ensure that I get the buy-in from all stakeholders in education, including teachers, parents and unions,” he said.

Ndabandaba said he was determined to address with urgency the problems that have adversely affected the running of education in KwaZulu-Natal. This includes an investigation into the widespread use of consultants revealed by the premier last month.

Mtshali said the department should use its own resources instead of spending vast sums on consultants who cost millions.

Ndabandaba added that the premier was correct to raise the issue of the use of consultants when there was much expertise in the department. “We should make use of the skills we have,” he said.

The MEC also plans to crack down on corruption within the department. “I do not think KwaZulu-Natal is more corrupt than any other province in the country. It is a problem nationally where you have government officials abusing vehicles and falsifying claims. We will have to deal with this swiftly,” he said.

Compared to his predecessors, Ndabandaba appears to have the acumen and muscle for the demanding task that lies ahead. He’s a former boxer, a trained martial arts expert and loves running half-marathons. Asked if he would be prepared to knock out poor performers in the department, he laughed, and said “not in the physical sense”.

- The Teacher/M&G Media, Johannesburg, August 2001.

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