The Mpumalanga Department of Education has started paying contract teachers their outstanding salaries after the Public Protector launched an investigation into the matter.
Two months ago, African Times exposed the department’s failure to pay the outstanding salaries of six teachers from Lamulelani High School in Marite outside Hazyview for over a year.
The Public Protector’s office in Mpumalanga immediately intervened, forcing the department to do what it could not do since June last year: paying salaries and rebuilding the damaged classrooms.
Lamulelani High School Governing Body (SGB) Chairperson, Justice Mkhonto, confirmed this week that the teachers had been paid between three and four months worth of salaries.
“Yes, it is true that since the PP started to investigate, we saw the department starting to pay the salaries. But we are concerned that they only paid for three and four months’ salaries while the teachers are being owed 12 months’ salaries,” said Mkhonto.
He said they hoped that the department would settle the balance as soon as possible.
“Another thing that was actioned after the investigation was launched is the rebuilding of the school’s premises that was demolished by the angry protestors eight years ago. The contractor was appointed and introduced to the SGB and the school management. The department needed to be pushed by the PP to do the right thing.”
One of the affected teachers, Zwelithini Fakude, said he received a portion of his outstanding salary.
“The department just sent us money without mentioning when are they going to settle the balance. Some received three months’ salaries while others four months’ salaries while we are being owed 12 months’ salaries,” he said.
Another teacher, fearing reprisal, who preferred to be anonymous, said she also received her three months’ salary.
“But paying me a three months salary while I’m being owed 12 months’ salaries is something else,” said the irate teacher.
A source within the Mpumalanga Department of Education said the Public Protector was investigating many things, including the department’s failure to rebuild the torched school premises.
“We received a call from the PP representative in the province requesting documents concerning the issue.”
A provincial Public Protector’s office representative, Amos Nkuna, confirmed the investigation but declined to comment further.
“I can confirm that the matter is receiving attention from the office of the Public Protector with no further comments until the investigation is completed,” said Nkuna.
Sources added that the department tried to fix the mess before the “investigation is completed.”
When contacted for comment, Lamulelani High School Deputy Principal Willie Mhlanga refused to comment, saying he was not allowed to talk to the media. “I suggest you contact the department’s communication team in the province because they must interact with the media,” said Mhlanga.
Mpumalanga Department of Education spokesperson Jasper Zwane failed to respond to the questions sent to him on Thursday morning. He previously accused the school of allowing affected teachers to start work before the department finalized HR processes, which delayed payments.
“This resulted in a situation where documents to request for appointments of such teachers will reach the office of the HOD months after these teachers are in the schools teaching.
“Schools have the responsibility to recommend for employment and to seek the approval of the HOD before teachers can assume duties. Upon the realization of such a trend, the Department issued a circular to direct schools from such a practice because it had the potential to cause irregular practice.
“The teachers you are referring to fall within the category of those who worked in schools before their appointment by the Accounting Officer,” Zwane said at the time.
However, a well-placed source within the department confirmed that, as required by the law, the department had given Lamulelani High School principal and the SGB permission to employ the teachers after “the department failed to get the educators for the profiled subjects”.
The SGB and the school management had been pushing the department to settle the outstanding salaries.
In a November 2022 letter, they said: “We request the department to fast-track the processing of the overdue process of the following unpaid educators. The problem of the said educators has been communicated with all the structures and sectors of the department. The circuit, district, province, and labour unions formation know of the issue at hand,” the letter read in part.