DA: EC education department’s disciplinary processes in shambles

Charges of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, having sex with pupils, assault, exam irregularities and financial mismanagement number among the reasons the Eastern Cape department of education has suspended employees on full pay.

The department provided the information in response to a parliamentary question by DA shadow MEC for education Yusuf Cassim.

The DA slammed the department’s disciplinary processes as being in a shambles, “with a complete lack of urgency to deal with disciplinary issues, and questionable outcomes when the matters are finally concluded”.

Education MEC Fundile Gade confirmed that 61 employees have been suspended with full pay over the past three financial years (2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/2020).

The salary payments for the 61 individuals while they were suspended, totalled a whopping R16.84-million

The charges against these employees include two cases of rape, several charges of sexual assault of pupils; charges of sexual harassment of pupils; several cases of sexual relations with a pupil, several cases of assaulting a pupil; as well as financial mismanagement, exam irregularities and others.

Of the 61 cases, 11 cases are listed as in progress, while a further six have been listed as only part heard. Nine employees have been dismissed, while a further six have resigned, one has retired and another’s contract with the department has expired. Six cases have been withdrawn and one case found the employee not guilty.

“The salary payments for the 61 individuals while they were suspended, totalled a whopping R16.84-million,” Cassim said.

“What is most concerning however, is when one starts to interrogate the charges and outcomes,” he said.

“Employees found guilty of having a sexual relationship with a learner have rightfully been dismissed, but several cases of sexual harassment of learners have resulted in nothing more than a month or two suspension without pay.

“An employee found guilty of sexual assault of a learner received a demotion and one month’s suspension without pay and a final written warning. This is heinous!”

A case of an employee accused of raping a pupil has still not been finalised, despite being suspended since August 21 last year.

The other case of rape, where the employee has been suspended with pay since April 28 2018, has only been part heard, Cassim said.

“It is simply unacceptable that investigations and subsequent disciplinary hearings are being drawn out, sometimes taking well over a year to finalise. This, while employees sit at home, waiting out the investigation and disciplinary processes, on taxpayers’ money.

“I will be reporting the department to the Human Rights Commission as no learner or colleague of an individual who has been found guilty of sexual assault or harassment, should be expected to be taught by or work within the same environment as that person,” Cassim continued.

“I will also be requesting that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) look into the wasteful expenditure that is being incurred by these drawn-out investigations and disciplinary hearings.”

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