racial standoff

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Teaching at George Cato Primary School in Cato Ridge outside Pietermaritzburg came to a standstill for a second day yesterday after racial tensions forced authorities to close the school gates.

Black teachers downed tools on Wednesday after accusing their white principal of racism.

They are accusing Lyn Phillips of calling them "baboons" and of treating them "like animals".

Some of the incidents of the alleged racism cited include that:

l Last week, Thamsanqa Mabaso, the school gardener, was assaulted by his white supervisor, who accused him of not doing his work properly. When he reported this, Phillips allegedly told him to "reconcile with the supervisor".

lLast year, black teachers who were allegedly appointed by Phillips as "grade heads" were later fired and replaced with white teachers. She had accused them of being unprofessional and incompetent in front of the white teachers.

l A senior employee allegedly assaulted a junior employee at the school. Both people are employed by the school governing body.

The SGB has since suspended the senior employee and a police case was opened.

The teachers also claim that when they reported these cases to the department, no one responded.

Provincial MEC for education Ina Cronje rushed to the school on Wednesday and met the disgruntled staff members.

She later ordered that for safety concerns, the school should close until today. The teachers yesterday told Sowetan they would not go back to the school today if Phillips was not fired.

"We don't want her suspended, we want her fired," said one of the teachers, Majozi Mkhize.

Tensions surfaced at the school last year when white and some Indian teachers clashed with black teachers.

The teachers are also calling for an election of a new SGB that will also consist of black parents.

Education spokesman Christi Naude said yesterday investigations were conducted last year and a report with recommendations was submitted.

"It has since transpired that an official in the department had received a report from district officials but failed to act swiftly.

"The department will deal with this individual," Naude said.