Rape charges were filed by two minors against Lucky Tsotetsi, an English teacher employed by the department for 24 years, and he was arrested in October 2011.
Three months later, his case was struck from the court roll, in part because an affidavit by one of the girls revealed a plan had been hatched by four of Tsotetsi’s colleagues at Nkumbulo Secondary School in KwaThema, Springs, to have him dismissed.
In the affidavit, the girl said the teachers had offered her R20 000, and later R50 000, to lay rape charges against him – a proposal she considered but ultimately declined, leading to the teachers approaching her friend, who followed through.
Tsotetsi said the charges were the result of his often challenging stance on the teaching methods of his colleagues.
Tsotetsi, after being cleared by the courts and a South African Council of Educators investigation, was conditionally reinstated in April 2012.
After a month in his new post at a school in Springs, his reinstatement was reversed and he was dismissed, as a “pending investigation” against him was outstanding. The issue, from substantial correspondence between Tsotetsi and Gauteng East’s head of department Boy Ngobeni that continues to this day, lies with legislation about Tsotetsi’s resignation from the department in the midst of the charges.
The Employment of Educators Act 1998 deems a teacher permanently employed by the department automatically discharged if “(the teacher) resigns or without the permission of the employer assumes employment in another position, while disciplinary steps against the educator have not yet been disposed of”.
Ngobeni, in a January 2012 letter, told Tsotetsi the Act did not make legislative provision for re-instatement.
Tsotetsi said he resigned two days after being arrested “to focus on the case” and disputed being timeously informed of the department’s intention to conduct its own investigation.
“I was also employed by the department on a contract basis at the time. The section of the Act I have been held to does not apply to me on that fact alone.
“I strongly believe that, due to also challenging department officials on their knowledge of school development, they have used their positional power to feed selective information to the provincial department, blocking me from finding work in the district,” said Tsotetsi.
His relationship with the mother of his children fell apart shortly after the charges were filed, he said, and he had been reduced to clearing graves for a funeral home on a 10-month contract for R300 a week.
The contract expired in January, leaving him once again entirely dependent on family for financial support.
Despite the exceptional circumstances of the case, Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Phumla Sekhoyane took the same dismissive stance that Tsotetsi has become used to, saying he resigned prior to the finalisation of disciplinary steps against him. “The department will therefore not reinstate Mr Tsotetsi as he resigned, effectively dismissing himself,” she said.