By Magnificent Mndebele
The Open Journal’s Investigative Unit discovered how over the past three years, the Department of Education in Mpumalanga lost over half a million rand due to corruption at the school called Umlambo Combined School in the province.
“I was illegally fired for exposing the principal . . .”
Ndifelani Harold Ligege says he found it strange when he was denied his payslips in 2014 by the clerk and the principal of Umlambo Combined School.
He later discovered that a teacher who had resigned mid-February 2014 continued to earn her salary as though she was an active educator for seven months after she left the job.
Ligege, who is supposed to be working as a teacher at the school but he continues to earn his salary despite not working at the school.
“I have no problem to speak the truth; I am earning without working, the taxpayers’ money also goes to me for free. I’ve been getting my full salary and all the benefits, including my bonuses over the past two years,” he says.
“There is corruption I have exposed of a teacher who was earning while she had resigned for a private mining company.”
A teacher who resigned from working at Umlambo Combined School continued to earn her salary, according to Ligege. “The principal, Yende illegally allowed that teacher which I made a discovery about to continue to earn for 7 months while she had resigned,” Ligege said.
He says that after he exposed the fraud his job was threatened. “After I exposed the principal; after two weeks, I got a letter from the SGB of the school that I had been dismissed for under performance and serious misconduct,” Ligege said explaining the details of his dismissal.
The principal, M.E Yende, orchestrated a plan to dismiss him through the School Governing Body (SGB), according to Ligege.
“The chairperson of the SGB, Eric Phakathi dismissed me for under performance and misconduct; but these are managerial tasks not the governing party. The chairperson of the SGB had been incited by the principal to dismiss me.” Ligege said.
The SGB Sends a Letter to the Departments of Education and Labour
The Open Journal’s Investigative Unit has obtained 27 documents in connection with this case. The SGB chairperson, Eric Phakathi, who Ligege says was given instruction by the principal to fire him, wrote a letter on the 13th of February 2015 to the Labour Relations Section.
The letter details the accusations against Ligege and why he was not needed anymore. An excerpt of the letter reads as follows: “we therefore advise the Labour Section to place him [in] another school for his safety purpose. The community is fully aware about that issue and we do not want them to make the school ungovernable by protest marches.”
After verifying the claims in the letter, The Open Journal’s Investigative Unit discovered that the Department of Education was deceived. The parents had never fired Ligege, instead the chairperson submitted a false statement.
Both the Department of Education and the Department of Labour found that Ligege was not guilty of any wrongdoing but the SGB chairperson, despite Phakathi being insistent that Ligege be placed in a different school.
After exhausting all the evidence the departments advised the SGB to reinstate Ligege and concluded that he should continue to earn his teaching salary. Despite the departments’ recommendations Ligege did not get his job back but continues to earn a salary. Over the past two years the department has spent more than R400 000 paying Ligege’s salary.
How the Mpumalanga Government Lost More Than 105 000 In 7months
A teacher who resigned from the Umlambo Combined School in Mpumalanga in the middle of February 2014 still didn’t have her name scratched off from the educators’ register, by the beginning of March that same year.
From the 3rd to 7th of March the former employee was marked as an absentee, and her name was only removed from the register on the week of the 10th to the 14th of March. It was only from the 10th of March 2014 that the teacher’s resignation had been formally considered permanent by the school. However, the principal of the school deliberately did not send the resignation of that former employee which Ligege made a discovery about.
M.E Yende, the principal at Umlambo Combined School admitted that he had helped the educator to continue earning her salary even though she had resigned. Yende on The Open Journal’s undercover investigation did acknowledge his part in the fraud and said that he was “doing [her] a favour and being sympathetic”.
M.E Yende (principal) sent the resignation letter to Amsterdam Circuit on the 15th of September 2014. This suggests that for 7 months the teacher continued to earn her salary while working for another company.
A source from within the school said the teacher was not earning under R15 000 at the time. The salary she illegally earned is approximately R105 000.
When combining the salary of Ligege of over the past two years, excluding this current year (2017) as he continues to earn, and the salary of the teacher who resigned, the Department of Education in Mpumalanga has lost more than half a million by educators who had no longer been serving as educators at Umlambo Combined School.
The Open Journal’s Investigative Unit tried to reach Jasper Zwane, the spokesperson of education in Mpumalanga for comment three weeks ago, but he has not responded to our findings.