Did the circuit manager of the Vhembe Education District, Dr Sampie Phaswana, go too far when giving a tongue-lashing to a group of matriculants at Eric Louw High School in Musina about their apparent lack of discipline?
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Limpopo believes so, going so far as to lay hate speech charges against Phaswana at the Musina Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
Dr Phaswana, an ordained minister of religion in the Lutheran Church, who holds a doctor’s degree in marital problems, as well as a master’s degree in divorce and a master’s degree in practical theology, is now at the centre of a controversy over the apparent racial slurs he uttered to matriculants following their “40 Days” celebration at Eric Louw. One of the children recorded his outburst and, after obtaining a copy of the recording, the DA decided to go public with it.
Dr Phaswana was apparently at the school for a meeting at the end of July, when the matriculants apparently started throwing eggs and water balloons at each other playfully. This outraged him, even more so when the matriculants apparently failed to obey a teacher’s instruction to stop. The group of matriculants was called in and what followed was an almost eight-minute-long tongue-lashing from Dr Phaswana, marked by foul language and racial remarks in both Afrikaans and English.
In the recording, Dr Phaswana can be heard saying: “I don’t play games … now once you are here, you behave. If the principal says ‘You don’t throw an egg to anybody, you just don’t throw an egg … and you think it is a joke when people fight and they stab each other … this is not a battlefield … You want to study, you come here, fine, we are all smiles. You don’t want to study, you voetsek! You just go. Whoever does not want to be at school here, stand up now, I will de-register you over the phone now!”
Shortly afterwards, Dr Phaswana says: “… you don’t mess up with me – not now, not ever! Nobody messes up with me … So … you were told ‘you don’t throw those’ what do you call them? … you call them water bombs. You don’t know what a bomb is. I carried bombs, I fought, I carried bombs, I had bombs from Russia long ago before you were born. I know what a bomb is, I have seen people die, here, I’ve seen people die … you don’t know what a bomb is … You come to my office you will see my boy, he is nine years old, I am teaching him to shoot at that age, nine years old, I’ve got many guns, you don’t know what bombs are … so you don’t throw any bomb, you don’t throw any egg … you are the people who are to be exemplary … you are the Grade 12s …”
Dr Phaswana then threatens the matriculants: “But if there is a Grade 12 that doesn’t want to be here and he bends every rule of the school, God help me, you will be sorry! Because I am not going to have mercy on anybody who bends the rules …” He then adds: “… even before I listen to anybody from any farm or anybody from any political camp, whether you are a member of the Inkata Freedom Party or you parents are the politicians anywhere… I am not interested, ek gee nie om nie, ek is f@#*&n gatvol van mense wat kom by my … hulle maak asof hul kinders niks gemaak het … When you parents come to me it’s like you did not do anything … Nou ek is gatvol!”
Dr Phaswana continues his threats with reference to the matriculants’ exam papers: “Do you know where your [exam]paper goes when you write? After writing, do you know what happens? I send those k&#@ers [derogatory reference to black people] to come here and collect those papers and they come to me … they come to me. So al daai k&#@ers wat hier kom om julle vraestelle te kom optel, hulle bring hulle na my toe. Ek kan maak enige ding wat ek wil met daai vraestel … you won’t know what hit you … you don’t mess up with me … you are messing up with the wrong guy … Your [exam]paper may not be found at the centre … If I say you are de-registered now and you are out of the school, next year you come [and] I tell you you are over age … you don’t come to my school finish and klaar … Do you hear me? … I don’t threaten people … when I want to hit people, I just hit them, I don’t tell them … so you either go and behave or you’ll deal with me …”
Dr Phaswana then warns the matriculants not to take him on, referring to someone who “messed up” with him: “There is a councillor principal who messed up with me in one of my meetings … he did not know who he was messing up with, right now, nobody will touch him! He is a no no. Nobody will touch him because, by the time I am done with him, he will not get a cent, nothing … I am not finished with him … he is crying now but I am not yet done … I just started, I am enjoying it … all the crying – I am really enjoying it … So I got in a male Afrikaner lawyer who hates blacks … If you are a white person, I will get in a black Afrikaner lawyer who hates whites, so that then all the scores of all the battles which were fought long ago, there we will fight it in court. By the time we are done you won’t have money … you won’t have money … and your future will be down the drain … no matter how good you are today … If we start fighting and you are not having any matric, what is going to happen? If the case is still on, we don’t give you anything …”
It was specifically these last remarks regarding black and white lawyers which infuriated the DA. “Dr. Phaswana’s utterances … have no place in our schools. He can be heard promoting racial discord and violence when he was addressing Grade 12s. His choice of words during his address are not befitting for an address meant for our learners,” says Ms Desiree van der Walt, DA Limpopo Education spokesperson, in a press release after she laid the charges of hate speech against Phaswana on Monday. She adds that the DA is committed to fighting any form of racial bigotry. “It is of fundamental importance that we erase racism in all its manifestations, especially in our schools, which are essential institutions of socialisation, where the character of our future leaders is nurtured,” says Van der Walt.
Several attempts by the LiN News to elicit comment from Dr Phaswana regarding the incident and recording by both email and SMS yielded no response from him. The provincial Department of Education, however, did respond by saying they view the incident in a very serious light. The department’s provincial spokesperson, Mr Phuti Seloba, commented on Tuesday by saying: “We are monitoring the case with interest. If the person on the audio is indeed Dr Phaswana, then he has a lot to answer to,” Seloba said. He also confirmed that the department is already conducting an internal investigation. “If it is indeed Dr Phaswana saying these words, then he is not saying it on behalf of the Department of Education,” says Seloba. Asked whether Dr Phaswana had been suspended, pending the outcome of the investigation, Seloba said that he was still on active duty. (LiN News / Zoutpansberger)