school head is suspended

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

A KwaZulu-Natal principal, who allegedly hired a hitman with R20000 from school funds to murder his deputy, has finally been suspended.

Nqabeni Mbatha, principal of Siphimfundo High School in Uitval near Dundee, was arrested in 2006 in connection with the murder of his 47-year-old deputy Sabelo Mkhize.

Mbatha went back to the school after he was released on R5000 bail three weeks ago after he had been in custody since 2006.

Mbatha's return sparked protests, chaos and fear at the school as teachers became worried about their safety.

The hitman - whom Mbatha allegedly hired - was earlier this month sentenced to 30 years in prison after confessing to the murder.

It is also alleged that Mbatha had paid the hitman R20000 from school funds.

MEC for education Ina Cronje yesterday revealed that her department took the decision to suspend Mbatha.

The department's decision comes after teacher unions' outcry over Mbatha's return to the school. Cronje could not comment further on Mbatha's suspension or on why the department did not suspend him in 2006 when he was initially arrested for murder.

"All I am prepared to say is that we have suspended him," Cronje said.

National Teachers Union spokesman Musa Gumede said yesterday they were delighted that "justice has been done".

He said they wondered why the department had turned a blind eye to the fact that the principal had been charged with murder and had been allowed to continue working as if nothing had happened.

"Though he is a member of our union we cannot protect him," Gumede said. "He has been charged by the law and as a result does not belong on school premises until the court makes a decision."