PRINCIPALS of various primary schools in Nelson Mandela Bay testified on Tuesday about ghost teachers fraudulently assigned to their schools, allegedly by the wife of ANC chief whip, Stone Sizani.
While Mr Sizani in Parliament on Tuesday mooted an ad hoc committee to study President Jacob Zuma’s response to various Nkandla reports, his wife, Portia “Pankie” Sizani, sat in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court as several witnesses testified against her.
A smartly dressed Ms Sizani, 46, of Summerstrand, leaned back in the dock as she concentrated on the evidence, only looking down occasionally to take notes.
She has pleaded not guilty to 31 counts of fraud and money-laundering more than R1.2m.
A group of her friends were again in court to show their support on Tuesday, only leaving her side at lunchtime, when Ms Sizani sat quietly and alone in the courtroom.
The state claims Ms Sizani processed numerous fraudulent applications during her tenure as the provincial education department’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) district co-ordinator, leading to the irregular appointments of Grade R teachers. The ECD provides for the appointment of Grade R teachers at Eastern Cape schools.
She would allegedly obtain the personal details of teachers, apply for posts on their behalf and falsify the principal’s signature of approval. Once the money was paid by the department into the teachers’ accounts, Ms Sizani would allegedly inform them that a mistake had been made and that the money should be paid back to her.
Nomfusi Nomnganga, principal of Dorothy Tomlinson Pre-Primary School in Kwazakhele, was surprised to learn that according to the department’s payroll, a teacher by the name of Nontathu Matinise assumed duties as her school’s Grade R practitioner in April 2009.
“But I have been the only Grade R teacher at my school since 1993,” a shocked Ms Nomnganga said.
A Special Investigating Unit probe uncovered that Ms Sizani had allegedly submitted an assumption of duty form on behalf of the school, falsely giving out that Ms Matinise assumed duty as the Grade R practitioner on April 1 2009. The application was accordingly approved by the department of education and on November 9 R22,806 was paid into Ms Matinise’s account.
It is further alleged that Ms Matinise was then accompanied by Ms Sizani and another woman to the bank and told to withdraw R20,000 and hand it over to Ms Sizani.
Studying the assumption of duty form on Tuesday, Ms Nomnganga denied ever signing it.
Puseletso Tau, principal of John Masiza Primary School in Walmer township, said Ntombekhaya Dinge and Thembela Plaatjie came to her office in June 2010 asking to observe the Grade R teacher as part of their learnership programmes.
Tau said while Ms Dinge never returned to the school, Ms Plaatjie continued to observe the class for about five weeks. It was later discovered that both Ms Dinge and Ms Plaatjie received stipends from the department until about November 2010 despite never being formally employed at a school.
Similarly, principals from Vukanibantu Luntu Primary in Motherwell, Ilitha Primary in Kwazakhele and Yellowwoods Farm School near St Albans testified about the department paying salaries to teachers who never assumed duty. It is alleged the scheme was implemented at least 16 times between January 2009 and November 2010.
The trial continues.