Corruption crusader gunned down after death threats
Rooting out ghost teachers was just one of the campaigns fought by the Gauteng education official
His integrity and zest to fight corruption in the education sector in Gauteng are what his family believes were behind his assassination on January 28.
Moss Nkonyane certainly stepped on a lot of toes during his tenure at the department of education in Gauteng, where he was a chief director for the Johannesburg district.
The 65-year-old, described by his daughters as giving and caring, was shot dead in cold blood at his home after two men posing as couriers rang the doorbell. His 30-year-old lawyer daughter, who was working from home on that fateful day, recalls the moments before her father was slain.
“I honestly didn’t know that they there were here to murder him. I answered the bell to find out what they were looking for, and they told me they have a delivery for my father,” Makhosazana Nkonyane told Times Select.
“I told him that those people say they have a delivery for him. He said he didn’t expect any parcel, but said he will go out and find out from the men what they had for him.”
She said she did not suspect anything, even though the men avoided eye contact with her, with their caps almost drawn over their eyes.
“I didn’t pay much attention to them, nor did I suspect anything, and went back to the house,” she said.
A few minutes later, she heard a gunshot and rushed to find her father lying in a pool of blood in the kitchen. “He obviously tried to run and the guy followed him into the house. He had one gunshot to the leg and two to the head. I helped him lie down properly on the floor and started making calls,” she said.
Makhosazana said the family was at a loss as to who would want to kill their dad.
They only know he was due to testify in a disciplinary matter against an education official next week, and then there was also an ongoing trial against a teacher accused of stabbing a principal in Soweto in 2016.
“He was also a witness due to testify in a criminal case against a former teacher who stabbed a principal after it was found that he [the teacher] used fraudulent teaching qualifications to secure a job at one of the schools,” Makhosazana said.
But what the family knows for certain is that he was receiving death threats.
Not only did her father tell them he had received threats, but a speaker at his memorial service last week spoke about how he had arrived home one day to find bullets at the doorstep of the front door.
His other daughter, Thembeka, said the family had become accustomed over the years to receiving weird phone calls and sometimes being followed from work. “Sometimes I would receive calls from private numbers and a person would not say anything and just breathe heavily. The thing is our father warned us and always told us to be alert every time we went out ...
“Although he did try to keep his work things from us, he did mention to us that he was receiving death threats because of the work he was doing.”
During his career, Nkonyane wrote books on how to manage schools without fear, and he is also quoted in the 2015 GDE report on how he helped fix the Shoshanguve district after SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) had hijacked the appointments of principals. Makhosazana said the family was concerned about his safety but relaxed a bit after he retired last June. Although retired, Nkonyane had just been appointed by the department of basic education to mentor school principals in Limpopo, which was among the poorly performing provinces in the 2018 matric exams.
“It’s not usual for someone who is retired to get a contract with the department, so maybe someone also got jealous here. There are just so many things going through our minds now,” his eldest daughter, Thembeka, said. Their father contributed significantly to turning around the education system.
“The death threats intensified when he started to do a lot of work removing ghost teachers on the payroll of the education department. He used to tell us that things don’t add up at certain schools, as it would be a small school, but the salary bill would just be too high, and that is when they found ghost teachers,” Makshosazane said. A week before he was killed, there was also a robbery at the school where their mother is the principal, and now they wonder if that had anything to do with their father’s death. “Luckily our mom, Khethiwe Nkonyane, was not at school when the robbers were at the school, and everyone, including her colleagues, said they are all relieved she was not there. Heaven knows what could have happened if she was there,” Thembeka told Times Select. Police spokesperson Constable Alex Mokete said they were investigating a case of murder and no arrests had been made. He confirmed the police were aware of death threats made against Nkonyane. The Gauteng department of education had not responded to questions sent by Times Select by the time of publication. * This article has been amended to correct Moss Nkonyane's age from 66 to 65; and to clarify that his daughter, Makhosazana, did not go outside during the incident.