Modidima Mannya steps down as Eastern Cape education department superintendent-general after conflict with the South African Democratic Teachers Union over the employment of temporary teachers

THE Eastern Cape education department has lost its flamboyant superintendent-general, Modidima Mannya, who agreed to step down immediately yesterday.

Mr Mannya had earned the enmity of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) over the employment of temporary teachers, and there have been questions about his working relationship with Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, whose department is overseeing an intervention in the Eastern Cape.

At the beginning of this year Mr Mannya’s resistance to employing large numbers of temporary teachers resulted in a five-week go-slow by Sadtu, who demanded his removal and the immediate reinstatement of 4000 temporary teachers.

Mr Mannya wanted to move some of the 7947 excess teachers in the province to where they were needed in a bid to cut costs.

The Eastern Cape’s teacher-to-pupil ratio is 1:28 — the lowest in the country. It was the worst-performing province in last year’s matric examinations, with a 58,1% pass rate.

Mr Mannya’s departure at the end of this month will coincide with the reinstatement of 1836 temporary teachers.

Eastern Cape Premier Noxolo Kiviet said yesterday the decision to “redetermine” Mr Mannya’s employment contract had been a “mutual” one.

Ms Kiviet said the challenges faced by the education department resulted in the province “experiencing the highest leadership turnover, in many instances losing some of our finest leadership at the political and administrative levels”.

While her agreement with Mr Mannya was negotiated in the best interests of education in the Eastern Cape, it was “not a pronouncement on the suitability or not of the head of the department of education”, she said.

Democratic Alliance basic education spokesman Edmund van Vuuren said Mr Mannya’s resignation was a culmination of the pressure put on him to resign by both Sadtu and the Department of Basic Education.

The loss of Mr Mannya, who had been taking several “positive steps”, would set the state of education in the Eastern Cape “back many years”, Mr van Vuuren said yesterday.

Beyond Mr Mannya’s refusal to accept Sadtu’s position on temporary teacher numbers — which would have seen personnel costs rise to 93% of his department’s budget — he had also taken “political risks” to increase the assessment of teachers’ classroom performance, and tried to reduce the power of teachers in the appointment of school principals, Mr van Vuuren said.

There was no doubt that these initiatives, vehemently opposed by Sadtu in the Eastern Cape, would now stall, he said.

With Mr Mannya’s resignation, the education department had been left without strong managerial leadership, while it was already lacking strong political leadership, Mr van Vuuren said.

In statement yesterday Sadtu welcomed the resignation of Mr Mannya, saying his departure was not only a victory for the union but also for the province’s pupils.

Sadtu Eastern Cape provincial secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni said the union was not targeting Mr Mannya as an individual, but the union was committed to progress in the province and Mr Mannya had become “a stumbling block”.

Mr Mannya’s departure did not mean there would be changes overnight, as “much needed to be done to correct the mistakes Mr Mannya had made,” he said.

The Department of Basic Education said in a statement yesterday that Ms Motshekga had noted the resignation, and would be meeting Ms Kiviet today and tomorrow to discuss the intervention in the province.