Principal fired for ignoring racist teacher goes back to school – with R629 000 in backpay

The SA
Human Rights Commission has urged the Free State education department not to
allow a principal that it fired for allegedly condoning racism to return to his
former school.

Fanie
Roeloffze, headmaster of Wilgehof Primary in Bloemfontein, recently
successfully appealed against the department’s sanction in the Education Labour
Relations Council (ELRC), which found his dismissal to be unfair, and ordered
the department to reinstate him by or before the end of this month.

The
department was also ordered to pay him 17 months back pay totaling R629 000.

He was
fired in January 2015 after being charged for, among other things, failing to
act appropriately against the display of an old South African flag in a grade
six classroom at the school.

Lenard
MacKay, a teacher at Roeloffze’s school, was found guilty of racism and hate
speech by the SAHRC in 2013 after using the K-word when referring to black
people in front of black children in his class.

Besides
displaying a full-sized apartheid flag in the front of his classroom, MacKay
had a poster on the class wall depicting black people as having monkey-like
primitive brains who can only make confusing noises.

He also
often used the K-word on children in his class and called them monkeys,
hooligans and barbarians.

When
interviewed by the SAHRC at the time, Roeloffze said he was not aware of the
old flag in Mackay’s class as he seldom inspected classrooms.

The
SAHRC recommended at the time that the department conduct a probe into
Roeloffze’s competence to lead the school.

Buang
Jones, provincial manager of the SAHRC in Bloemfontein, said they were
disappointed with the outcome of the appeal.

“It’s
a travesty of justice. In light of what had transpired at the school, one would
have thought that he would have been transferred to another school.
It’s a step
backwards for human rights and for transformation at that school because all of
the incidents happened under his watch and he never did anything about
them.”

Jones
said Roeloffze was aware of the existence of the apartheid flag in Mackay’s
class.

He said
he was concerned about the teaching personnel at the school, particularly the
black teachers who testified against him, adding: “I don’t know how the
working environment is going to be like when he returns.”

Craig
Thiem, the parent of two learners at Wilgehof, who lodged the complaint against
MacKay with the SAHRC, said he was outraged that Roeloffze would be returning
to his former school.

“Roeloffze
getting off scot-free flies in the face of what Nelson Mandela stood for and
everything he sacrificed. It’s outrageous.”

“I
feel that in light of the recent spate of racist incidents, including the Penny
Sparrow saga, this sends a completely wrong message to the country,” he
said.


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