Senior education official accuses department of discrimination
An angry Port Elizabeth education boss and double amputee has lashed out at Bhisho for not allowing him to return to his job, accusing the department of demoting him because of his disability. He has now turned to the courts to compel the department to explain why he has been left on special leave on full pay and not permitted to return to his position as district director.
Saying angrily that his legs had been amputated, not his head, frustrated Port Elizabeth district director Dr Nyathi Ntsiko has been fighting the Eastern Cape Department of Education for more than a year for answers in an attempt to return to work.
Ntsiko, 60, was told in February last year – when he returned from sick leave after having both his legs amputated – that he had been released from his duties and someone else had been appointed to his position.
He said he was told he could either take early retirement or manage the Algoa Education Leadership Institute.
He believes he is the best person to lead the district through the rationalisation and amalgamation process as it is joined with the Uitenhage district.
“This shows me the Eastern Cape department does not have room for disabled people,” Ntsiko said. “They are discriminating against me.”
Ntsiko, who has been fitted with prosthetics, said he was still able to drive within the Bay.
Provincial spokesman Loyiso Pulumani has described Ntsiko’s claims as unfortunate and sensation-seeking.
But Ntsiko said he could not understand why the department was now using state resources to oppose his court application.
“If this was a performance-based decision, I could understand it.” he said.
“But the matric pass rate for the district actually increased while I was district director.
“It went from 64.2% in 2010 to 67.8% in 2011 to 71.1% in 2012 to 74% in 2013 and 74.3% in 2014.”
Ntsiko said the pass rate had dropped more than 10% during his absence.
His right leg was amputated in December 2014 as a result of a diabetes-related illness. He returned to work in April 2015 for three months, before falling ill again. His left leg was amputated in September 2015. “After that, I was fitted with prosthetics. “My doctor said I would be fit to return in February [last year] but, to my surprise, on my first day back I found I had basically been suspended for no reason,” Ntsiko said.
When he arrived for work on February 1, he received a letter from MEC Mandla Makupula stating that he had been released from his duties and Joy Grobler had been appointed in his place.
The letter stated he had been released due to the “prolonged volatile situation surrounding education delivery” in the district.
“I was placed on special leave and asked to provide reasons why I should not be assigned to manage the Algoa Education Leadership Institute to handle education development programmes,” he said.
“This would make me a glorified subject adviser.”
Ntsiko’s legal representative sent the department a letter on February 10 requesting reasons for this decision.
“But on February 16, I received another letter asking me why I had not communicated my choice to them.”
His lawyer sent another letter on February 25 requesting reasons for the department’s decision.
This letter was also allegedly ignored.
According to Ntsiko, since filing an application in the Bhisho High Court he has received two letters from the department – one informing him he had failed to disclose registrable interests and another requesting him to write a competency test in Bhisho.
“I wrote a national department competency test before being placed on leave and I was told by an official at head office this test is still valid,” he said.
“They told me to write the new test in Bhisho but they know I cannot drive long distances.
“This is all a plan to work me out of the department.”
Ntsiko said that after 28 years as a department employee he was being made to feel like “an unwanted dog”.
Provincial education portfolio committee chairman Fundile Gade said he did not know the reason for Ntsiko’s extended special leave.
He said Mphakamisa Hlekani, Joy Grobler, George Lukwe and now Ernest Gordonzolo had all acted as district director in Ntsiko’s absence.
School principals described Ntsiko as visible, highly experienced and approachable.
Cowan High principal Trevor Dolley said: “He was very competent. With him at the helm there was stability.”
West End Primary principal Ronnie Matthys said: “He made himself available and knew what he was doing.
“With this amalgamation, I do not know if anyone knows the way forward.”
Pulumani said it would be premature to deal with media questions now as this could undermine the court process.
He said as part of the restructuring process to reduce the number of districts from 23 to 12, district managers were subjected to competency exercises.
“Dr Ntsiko was invited to take part in that exercise but he chose not to avail himself,” Pulumani said.
“The superintendent-general invited him to another consultation on the developments in the department, which he also chose not to attend.
“As things stand, Dr Ntsiko has not as yet been deployed in the new structure.”