Shock as Mannya throws in the towel

Zandile Mbabela

EMBATTLED Eastern Cape education superintendentgeneral Modidima Mannya threw in the towel yesterday in the face of growing pressure to quit, stepping down as head of the ailing department with immediate effect.

Mannya – who had previously headed the department from October 2000 to early 2001 – joins a host of past superintendents-general who have left office long before their contracts were up.

His departure has left a gaping hole in the department that will be filled only after MEC Mandla Makupula has met with his management team and announces a successor.

Makupula is tipped to make an announcement before the end of the week.

At a media briefing in Bhisho, premier Noxolo Kiviet said an agreement had been reached in which Mannya’s contract – due to end next September – had been “redetermined” and he had stepped down officially yesterday.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga – who had reportedly said she wanted the office “clean” when she visits this week – will hold meetings with Kiviet today and tomorrow to “discuss the way forward”, according to ministry spokesman Hope Mokgatlhe.

In a statement, Motshekga simply noted the agreement to have Mannya vacate his position.

She would not comment further.

Mannya’s decision came as a shock to many after he had repeatedly said he would serve out his contract and would not be forced out of his position.

But the controversial superintendentgeneral gave in to “pressure from all sides, including the media” to relinquish his duties as department head.

“I’m gone, no longer an employee of the department. I’m tired, man,” he said.

“There was just too much negativity around me and there was always a negative picture painted of me.

“It was too much.”

A Bhisho source claimed Mannya had received a R2-million golden handshake, but Mannya refused to comment on it.

“I’m no longer a public servant and therefore do not have to answer that. That’s personal,” he said.

Undecided about his future, Mannya said he would take his time to decide on his way forward.

“I’m not poor, mos. I have enough resources to last me for the next 2½ years, so I still have time to think about it.”

Kiviet said that during discussions with Mannya – in which a need for unity in interpreting problems in the department and a shared solution by all key roleplayers was highlighted – an agreement to “redetermine” his contract had been reached.

“In terms of this redetermination, the contract will end on April 30 2012, while his operational responsibilities as head of department will cease with effect from the date of the signing of the agreement, that is [yesterday],” she said.

“This agreement was reached in the best interest of education … and is not by any means a pronouncement on the suitability or not of the head of the Education Department.”

Mannya’s departure comes after the provincial ANC slammed reports last week that they had instructed Kiviet to devise an exit plan for Mannya.

The party said its interest was to ensure a speedy resolution to the ongoing dispute between Mannya and the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union.

The ANC said it had “never, at any stage”, even contemplated “having Mannya removed”.

Sadtu – who had been calling for Mannya’s head for the past year and even suggested that Kiviet give him a severance package in February – played down its satisfaction at Mannya’s departure.

But the DA described it as “a pity”.

Sadtu provincial secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni said the union was “not saddened” and hoped Mannya’s successor would be more sensitive to teachers’ working conditions. “I won’t lie and say that we are sad,” Ndongeni said.

“We do not necessarily take this as a Sadtu victory because, as a trade union, we are never happy when someone loses his or her job, but since he [Mannya] came to the province, the provincial structures have become polarised.

“We just hope that the new superintendent-general will work with us and take the union’s grievances seriously.

“That is not to say that we want to dictate things in the department, but [we wish to] push the principle that we need each other.”

COPE said it had “noted with dismay” the province’s decision to “redetermine, rather than terminate, the contract”.

It added: “In the past, we have warned of a dangerous pattern of the Eastern Cape Department of Education seemingly being co-managed with Sadtu.

“The premier in the past warned that Sadtu as a union should be protecting the interests of workers instead of seeking their dismissal,” party communications head Nkosifikile Gqo said.

“The current micro-management of the provincial government by Calata House [ANC head office in King William’s Town] reflects sheer blurring of the party and state line by the ruling party and is deplorable.

“This anomaly has been portrayed by the ANC’s statement last week instructing the premier to fire Mannya.”

COPE said that its previous questions to the premier as to whether the provincial cabinet or the union was in charge and calls for her “to save this collapsing system of governance” had fallen on deaf ears.

The party asked who would be next to be axed. Would it be Dr Siva Pillay (health) “as the union has made its demand as it did regarding Advocate Mannya”?

It also asked how much Mannya had been offered “to agree to quit” and where the money would come from to hire his replacement. COPE said the ANC-led government and its deployees had “not only failed the people of this province but have deliberately neglected their plight towards a better and qualitative education”.

DA provincial education spokesman Edmund van Vuuren said Sadtu had succeeded in driving Mannya out, despite the positive strides made in the department.

The union had “defied” him several times, but “Mannya never allowed Sadtu to dictate terms”.

The DA added: “Because of this stand-off and the type of pressures on him, one can understand him throwing in the towel.

“This department already lacks strong political leadership.” Now it had been “left without strong managerial leadership”.

The party urged the premier to appoint a substitute “who will ensure the core business of the department goes forward … She cannot be guided by those who want to break down education in the Eastern Cape,” Van Vuuren said.

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