Teachers seek protection from boss

Teachers applied for protection after threatening messages were posted on the SGB's WhatsApp group.
Teachers applied for protection after threatening messages were posted on the SGB's WhatsApp group.

A Soweto principal has had seven protection orders filed against him in just one month.

Threats involving pictures of guns and bullets were allegedly posted on a school governing body (SGB) WhatsApp group, apparently directed at some teachers and staff.

Now Freedom Park Secondary School principal Siyabonga Buthelezi is to appear in court in two weeks' time to show cause why a final protection order cannot be issued.

Several staffers who sought interim protection orders at the Kliptown Magistrate's Court told Sowetan yesterday that the principal had allegedly incited violence against them during meetings and using the SGB WhatsApp group.

A school administrator who sought protection two weeks ago said she feared for her life and her children's.

"During a community meeting our names were mentioned as the people who are causing problems at school and also dragging the school's progress (sic). This angered community members who even threatened us at our homes."

Some of the messages seen by Sowetan read: "Bazositholakahle [They will know who we are], we are ready for them. We won't give them what they want."

Buthelezi responded saying: "Cool down my treasurer, this is just nothing."

The messages were accompanied by pictures of guns and bullets. And after other
teachers also sought protection orders against Buthelezi, he allegedly updated his status on his profile.

"This goes straight to Guinness Book of Records: 7 protection orders in one month. Uyiskhokho [You're the boss] Shenge [Buthelezi's clan name]," it read.

SGB member Godfrey Sakhela said the messages were aimed at people who wanted to disrupt teaching.

Another teacher who did not want to be named said they decided to apply for protection because they no longer felt safe.

Their problems, the teacher said, began last July when they sent grievances to the Gauteng department of education.

The seven teachers have since been reporting to the district office in Soweto. "He [the principal] was angry, saying that we want him fired."

When pressed on the WhatsApp messages, Buthelezi said: "Hawu sowuyayazi naleyo, wazi njani ngale ndaba [You also know about that, how did you know about it?] Unfortunately I am not at liberty to comment, especially because I still have to appear in court. There's always two sides of the story and I have a lot to say but not today."

Gauteng department of education spokesman Steve Mabona did not respond to requests for comment.