Sadtu slams Curro for firing teacher who was called a monkey

The South African Teachers Union (Sadtu) has slammed Curro Holdings for dismissing a black teacher who had previously been labelled a monkey.

The labour union is accusing the private school of failing to hold the teacher’s disciplinary hearing in a procedurally and substantively fair manner.

This comes after the axed teacher, Nonkululeko Gwatyu, was allegedly fired for coming late to school and taking a French leave.

Sadtu reacted in shock and dismay when Gwatyu, a former English and history teacher at Curro Academy Protea Glen, was shown the door with immediate effect.

The hearing was procedurally unfair

The union’s general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, asked how the disciplinary hearing for Gwatyu was fair when she was not given an opportunity to present her case or defend herself.

“As far as Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act is concerned, this so-called hearing was procedurally and substantively unfair. Sadtu concludes that it was just a formality and not a hearing at all,” said Maluleke.

“Curro is fully aware that the teacher has a right to be represented by a union, but it doesn’t recognise unions in a constitutional democracy. It’s practising modern slavery and rooted in racism.

“Ms Gwatyu’s employment contract and her right to a fair hearing were violated. It’s critical to look into the history of Curro anywhere in the country: black teachers are denied simple basic rights of respect.

“Curro hardly appoints black Africans on a permanent basis unless the black teacher is a foreign national, because such employees are exploited.”

Sunday World reported at the weekend that Curro had dismissed Gwatyu on her birthday last week on allegations of lateness.

The teacher was called a monkey 

Last year, Sunday World reported that the teacher had been the victim of racism as a result of Shanette Tiquin, the fired executive head, calling her a monkey.

Maluleke added that the manner in which Curro had handled the matter proved that “this was a classic case of modern slavery, and because Gwatyu reported a white senior of racism, she was denied the right to representation”.

“This is unlawful,” said Maluleke.

Sadtu also emphasised that Gwatyu’s situation was simply unfair discrimination against her because she was a black woman and had spoken up when Tiquin was abusing her racially.

“The environment had been set up systematically to catch her. She was targeted the day she stood up and refused to be called a monkey,” he said.

“We believe that Curro didn’t take her complaints in good faith because, according to this school, black teachers are given a heavenly favour to be employed by them, so she had to be dealt with for her ungratefulness towards white supremacy.

“This is unacceptable and a reminder of why racism must be fought against.

“Curro is a law unto itself and lives up to its original purpose of being a ‘volk school’. It violates the LRA [Labour Relations Act] and the constitution by refusing teachers to join the unions. It violates teachers’ rights to representation.”

Plan to involve the JSE

He said that Sadtu will be writing to the JSE, where Curro Holdings is listed, to report the school for practising racism.

“Sadtu will ask the JSE and the Department of Employment and Labour to investigate the composition of the board of Curro Holdings, which we suspect is racially composed.

“Sadtu will approach Cosatu to take up this matter with the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration] so that Curro Academy is compelled to admit unions.

“Sadtu is going to request that the department that has registered Curro conduct an inquiry into all appointments of all staff members, including psychosocial services, to determine if Curro complies with equity requirements because we suspect that all service providers except taxis are only reserved for whites.”

Curro Holdings has more than 180 schools catering for more than 70 000 learners, and its major shareholder is the Stellenbosch-based PSG Group.

Apart from Curro, PSG Group also owns private educational institutions such as Stadio Higher Learning, Milpark Education, and AFDA.

Role of trade unions

Responding to Sunday World questions, Curro Holdings said that it respects the important role of Sadtu and other unions in protecting workers’ rights and engages with all relevant unions within the framework of labour law and the rights and obligations that it involves.

“We do not, however, engage with unions via the media. The teacher’s employment with Curro was terminated as a result of the recommendations of advocate Ntombi Mncube of the Johannesburg Bar, who was the independent chair of the disciplinary inquiry into her conduct.

“The teacher was legally represented at the hearing and participated in the proceedings. Curro followed due process, and the matter has been referred to the Labour Court,” said Curro Holdings Business Executive, Fergus Sampson.

He added that employee was charged with 11 counts of not adhering to her contracted working hours, 14 counts of absenteeism without authorisation, and four counts of failing to meet deadlines.

“The charges were in the context of repeated written warnings, including a final written warning issued to her during 2023 related to her failure to meet deadlines and her conduct in not tagging when reporting for duty.

“Advocate Mncube found that the “employee showed absolutely no remorse for her conduct. Instead, she maintained that she was innocent and tried to make out an improbable case of victimisation,” he said.

Sampson added that Mncube also noted that the teacher believes that she is a “master of the art of deception”.

Guilty of gross misconduct

“The complaint of racism against the executive head of Curro Protea Glen, Shanette Tiquin, was also dealt with by due process in August last year in a hearing chaired by advocate Mandla Mkhatshwa.

“She was found guilty of gross misconduct for the racially offensive remark, and the chair recommended summary dismissal. Curro implemented the recommendation immediately, which was reported on by Sunday World at the time,” said Sampson.

SACE spokesperson Rusina Nkuna said: “As council, we are unable to respond to the above questions as we have no knowledge of the matter. May we be granted the opportunity to gather more evidence so we can respond on facts.”


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