‘What crisis?’ says governing body as principal remains in hiding

Bloekombos Primary School

Differences between the Bloekombos Primary School governing body and principal Zandile Goniwe have been laid bare in Northern News interviews with the feuding sides.

At the centre are tender-corruption allegations and counter-allegations.

Ms Goniwe has gone to ground for weeks claiming to have received death threats after asking questions about tenders.

School governing body (SGB) members say they welcomes the police investigation into alleged threats against the principal. They claim the issues causing the divide arose when they started asking questions about tenders. But Ms Goniwe’s backers claim she was the one who started asking questions first.

In the governing-body elections in March, ballot papers are said to have been set alight with some accusing the governing body of doing this to cling to power for a third term.

The governing body says questions about the destruction of ballot papers should be referred to parents.

Governing body chairperson Zukeka Jacobs said, among other issues, the problems related to tenders; that Ms Goniwe allegedly meddled in governing-body elections in the absence of an electoral officer and that a teacher aligned to the principal ran the parents’ elections and even drove in the principal’s car on the day.

Ms Jacobs said the Western Cape Education Department intervened by re-scheduling the elections for May, but the principal’s backers say they never took place.

Ms Jacobs said The governing body’s legitimacy was unquestionable. Asked whether there was a crisis, Ms Jacobs said: “The school is not in a crisis at the moment. It is running smoothly. Everything is running smoothly with the acting principal in place.”

Asked what her take was on Ms Goniwe being in hiding, Ms Jacobs said she was glad Ms Goniwe was under police protection and she trusted the police would solve the matter.

Quizzed on their relationship with Ms Goniwe, Ms Jacobs said the governing body was united. “We have just been getting negative feedback from the principal, who has made it clear that she is not willing to participate.”

Linda Phito, who speaks on Ms Goniwe’s behalf and who also claims to be a part of the governing body, said was still a “safe hideout”.

“I was told the department is aware of the threats and that the police are still investigating. We last saw her on Saturday (September 4) when we took her to the police station to take her into hiding. We have not received any further updates.”

Mr Phito said Ms Goniwe had started received threats after locking horns with the governing body over the alleged misuse of school funds, and he had gone with her to the Kraaifontein police station on Saturday September 4 over death threats she had allegedly received.

Ms Goniwe, he said, had felt uneasy when he had seen a suspicious-looking Hyundai parked outside the school, and she had asked a colleague to drive her to her father’s home. The Hyundai had tailed Ms Goniwe’s car, Mr Phito said.

“An 079 number called her after she received a private number call. Then she got the SMS that told her she had only two days to live,” Mr Phito.

In her affidavit, Ms Goniwe had specifically stated that she did not see eye to eye with the governing body and school management, Mr Phito said.

Ms Goniwe could not be reached at the time of writing.

Mr Phito said the principal had queried the approval of tenders at the school and even requested minutes of meetings – which ultimately approved allegedly questionable tenders – which had not been forthcoming.

However, Ms Jacobs said they had started asking the questions about the tender processes. “When we wanted the school painted over the holidays, she started running around looking for paint prices. We were not sure she understood what she was supposed to do.”

Asked whether there were divisions in the governing body, Mr Phito said: “I cannot lie and say there is unity. The same SGB is serving a second three-year term. The very SGB destroyed ballot papers in the last elections. As a new member, I’ve seen a lot of things.“

Teachers who served in key positions in the governing body were leading it astray, he said.

WCED spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said: “We condemn any threats against our staff and disruption to teaching and learning.”

Ms Hammond said the department had intervened in the contentious elections and had set a free-and-fair election that had gone ahead in May. She said SGBs could serve more than one term.

The Kraaifontein police station did not respond to queries, while the provincial police, without going into specifics, said they were investigating the alleged death threat.