“My concern is that he does not get swallowed by the unions” — Edmund van Vuuren

FORMER Eastern Cape acting education superintendentgeneral Mthunywa Ngonzo has been called back to the department to temporarily replace controversial former education boss Modidima Mannya.

What would have been a formal announcement by the provincial Education Department in East London yesterday was cancelled at the last minute as officials waited for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to arrive.

She was due to arrive last night, ahead of a meeting with premier Noxolo Kiviet on the future of education in the province and to evaluate progress on the Section 100 (1)(b) intervention.

Department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said the minister would have a series of meetings in the province, but the appointment of Mannya’s replacement was not on the agenda.

Ngonzo – who once came under fire for a hotel stay that cost the taxpayer R1.4-million while acting department head – headed the department between October 2008 and March 2010, following then superintendent-general Nomlamli Mahanjana’s abrupt departure.

He now heads the Cofimvaba education district, which yielded impressive matric results last year – a jump from 57.2% in 2010 to an astonishing 72% last year.

His appointment has not been officially announced, but The Herald has reliably learnt he will act until a permanent replacement is appointed.

He is already “on site and ready to assume duty”.

The Eastern Cape ANC, which had backed Mannya last week, said calls for his head had been going on for months.

Provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the decision to hire and fire heads of department rested squarely with the premier, but the ANC was concerned about the rate of change in the leadership of the department.

“There had been numerous calls for Mannya to go, but the ANC thought our turnover rate of department head was too much,” he said.

“It is worrying as the department is in dire need of stability.

“It is worrying because that too is the major contributor to non-implementation of agreed resolutions and weakens management severely.

“His early departure will be a lesson to all and leadership should always prevail before personalities agitate proper governance.”

The ailing department – plagued by poor human resources, supply chain and financial management – has had about 10 superintendents-general in the past decade alone.

“We observed with appreciation [Mannya’s] contribution to . . . cause people to work, but in maintaining relations with fellow managers, [he] could have approached matters differently,” Qoboshiyane said.

“Tensions were too high at the upper level of decision-making.

“He committed no crime, neither did he disobey the cabinet during his tenure. We wish him well in his new life.”

Qoboshiyane also said the provincial ANC welcomed Ngonzo, who was due to take the helm yesterday.

DA spokesman Edmund van Vuuren said he endorsed Ngonzo’s appointment as he was a man of integrity.

“He has the managerial expertise and capabilities to run the department efficiently and effectively,” he said.

“My concern is that he does not get swallowed by the unions and be dictated to, as he has shown great leadership in his district.”

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union provincial secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni declined to comment, saying the union had not yet been told about the move.