Capture by committee
SSC part 4
This is part 4 of my story as I uncover the truth about what happened at St Stithians College (JHB, South Africa) in June 2020, bring the perpetrators and accessories to account, and try to stop the ongoing damage that is being done to children and teachers. Other parts are archived here.
It seems the capture of St Stithians College was easy to achieve. Perhaps all schools on the campus should come under scrutiny, but I am certain that the main College and the Girls’ College (GC) should be fully and forensically investigated for school capture during 2020. In my view, it started at the GC and immediately engulfed the main College, with St Stithians starting its transition to St Capture on May 31, 2020. Management capitulated without a serious question being raised or any pushback whatsoever. June 23, 2020, saw the effective completion of the transition and the birth of St Capture.
More will no doubt be written on this, but what I have observed are the astounding similarities to what South Africans know so well as ‘state capture’. The financial spoils are not quite as enriching for the perpetrators and enablers of ‘school capture’, but the impacts and outcomes are more destructive and perverse given their malevolent impact on vulnerable children through the introduction of foreign ideologies about race, gender, and sex. There is now increasing evidence that these bodies of ideologies and experimental procedures are causing a lot of harm.
The fact that the management teams could not see this unfolding at the time is a serious indictment, in my opinion, of their ability to govern and lead such an important and influential organisation. Criminal consequences, should, in my opinion, evidence permitting, be considered for the perpetrators and their accessories.
History of St Stithians College
St Stithians is a college of eight schools, each with its own team, so nine managing teams in total.
While researching GC during 2017 for the possible enrolment of my daughter for grade 10 in 2018, St. Stithians did not appear to be a virtue-signaling and rapaciously-capitalist commercial enterprise, nor a communist structure under one ‘supreme leader’. It was not a special-needs school; not a university; not a college (in the American sense); and not a research institution running experiments on minors beyond the realms of established teaching practices and scientific and safety protocols.
It seemed to me that St. Stithians had built an admirable reputation as an institution of basic learning since its founding as an English-speaking Christian Methodist school for boys. From 1953 to 2017 it had grown organically to warmly welcome girls, students of all races and cultures, and members of the gay and lesbian community. It appeared a diverse and inclusive institution, and certainly seemed to be on an uninterrupted journey of delivering what it ‘says on the box’.
A meritocracy that didn’t reward bad behaviour, the college seemed to be delivering a solid, traditional, and globally competitive standard of well-rounded education of which its alumni could be proud. Many men and women have gone on to achieve great things and perhaps even send their own children and grandchildren there.
I saw no risk in agreeing to my daughter moving from the truly excellent multiracial mixed-sex school where she had blossomed since grade 00. My requirements were rather simple: protect her, encourage her, and provide her with an internationally mobile standard of education that would underpin her journey to an independent young lady in a sometimes cruel and binary world. Do not infringe on or impair her right to basic education and always act in her best interests. The thought of the school being captured by people who would try to destroy her never crossed my mind.
History of 2020 GC management
St. Stithians enjoyed a great campus and ethos thanks to its founders, many years of development, and good management, and had an excellent academic record and overall performance metrics. The teaching teams were doing an excellent job and I had no doubt that they would look out for my daughter’s best interests. Naturally, I assumed the various governors, standards, and practices of governance, would do the same.
On 21 Sept 2017, we visited the campus for an interview with the Head of the GC who I understood to be Mrs. Ivanka Acquisto. To our surprise, the interview was conducted with deputy-head Mrs. Karen Prinsloo since the new Head was unavailable. We then learned that Dr. Sally James had, just weeks before, taken over from Ivanka Acquisto as Head of GC. Karen Prinsloo answered all our questions, and everything seemed as expected. We were suitably impressed with what we heard and proceeded to allow my daughter to be enrolled for grade 10 in 2018.
Now, looking back to see if I missed anything, and to update some facts:
The college appeared to be enjoying a successful management team in 2017. Dr. Tim Nuttall was the Rector of St. Stithians College since 2014 and although quite new, he was only the third Rector. Mr. Carel Nolte served as Chair of Council, and Mrs. Ntombi Langa-Royds as Deputy Chair.
The GC certainly had a stable team at the helm. Ivanka Acquisto was Head of GC having joined soon after it was opened. She was promoted to Head in 2001, a position she held for 17 years. Two Deputy Heads of GC: Mrs. Loredana Borello (academics) and Karen Prinsloo (sports and culture) were appointed by Ivanka Acquisto in 2005.
Ivanka Acquisto left in 2017 but was not replaced by either of her deputies despite her rumoured recommendation. St. Stithians decided instead to appoint a less experienced external candidate, Sally James, who started in September 2017, the month of our interview.
Loredana Borello resigned in 2018 to take up the position of head at a rival girls’ school the following year.
For 2019, Sally James did away with Loredana Borello’s position, replacing her with four new “faculty directors” and a new administrator. Promoted from within were [name, portfolio, and approx. the first year of service] Mr. Martin Perold, commerce and technology, 2001; Mrs. Linda Galanakis, languages, 2005; Ms. Leanne Horwitz, humanities, 2010; Mr. Paul Statham, mathematics and science, 2013, and Mrs. Catherine Dabbs, academic administrator, 2016.
Linda Galanakis resigned in 2019.
May 2020 saw the promotion of Mrs. Celeste Gilardi to Rector of St Stithians College, taking over the role from Tim Nuttall who had left rather suddenly for a similar role in China. Celeste Gilardi was previously the Head of St Stithians Girls’ Preparatory and was celebrated as the first female Rector of the college and indicative of its ongoing transformation efforts
Finding ground zero
June 2020 saw an orchestrated attack on my daughter, a handful of her peers, and many of their teachers. I now believe that those teachers and students were put through the same sham process as my daughter as part of a ‘school capture’ project which enriched a few individuals and opportunistically and illegally enforced alarming ideologies and outcomes onto unsuspecting teachers, vulnerable children, and trusting parents.
The senior management who supported these attacks can be viewed through the lens of my 12 October 2020 email to Celeste Gilardi:
“I refer you to the Findings on Appeal by Adv. NH Maenetje SC dated 5 October, and the letter dated 7 October from Dr Sally James to [daughter’s] mother and I.
As you know, St Stithians College implicated and accused [daughter] in this matter on multiple occasions and through several channels including Twitter, WhatsApp, email, and The Seriti.
These instances include those highlighted in yellow in the attached index, which in turn refers to “Bundle 3” that was submitted to Adv. Maenetje SC as part of the Appeal (also attached). The addressees included the public at large, parents, guardians, students, teachers, and other stakeholders of the “Saints Community” and the “Saints Family”. The signatories to these communications included:
- Yourself, as Rector of St Stithians College,
- Israel Skosana, Chair of the Old Stithian Association,
- Carel Nolte, Chair of St Stithians College Council,
- Dr. Sally James, Head of St Stithians Girls College,
- Ntombi Langa-Royds, Deputy Chair of St Stithians College Council,
- Nerine Kahn, Chair of St Stithians College Council Governance Committee,
- Gary Morolo, Chair of St Stithians College Endowment Fund Trust,
- Motseki Majake, Chair of St Stithians College Council Transformation Committee.
It is quite clear from Adv. Maenetje’s ruling that he agrees with us that [daughter’s] name should have been removed from the outset of this matter on or about 31 May or very soon thereafter.
We are of the opinion that the process of clearing [daughter’s] name must now commence urgently, using at least the same formats and channels that were used by St Stithians College since 31 May including those mentioned above.
We therefore require that St Stithians College attend to the attached announcement via email and WhatsApp by no later than close of business Wed 14th October 2020, and in the next edition of The Seriti on or about Friday 16th October 2020. Please ensure that the announcement is made to all the of the abovementioned addressees via each of the abovementioned channels.”
Celeste Gilardi did not respond to my email, but it was hastily suggested via St Stithians’ attorneys that I seek browner pastures.
23 June 2020 had already seen a letter of special thanks from Celeste Gilardi to “our group of past students” and many others, for their participation and support of management and their achievements. In addition to the signatories listed above, Celeste Gilardi thanked Acting Superintendent Chaplain, Rev. Jenni Samdaan, Acting Head of the GP, Dr. Adrienne Watson, Campus Director of Diversity and Transformation, Mrs. Noma Shange, and Chair of the PTAs, Mrs. Trish Luthuli.
23 June 2020 had also seen my daughter and I attend a ‘disciplinary hearing feedback session’ with Ntombi Langa-Royds, Sally James, and Leanne Horwitz, where she was pronounced guilty on both charges and given two sanctions – a written threat of immediate expulsion for any misdemeanors, and the reading of a book to discriminate against and punish her. We appealed immediately. The transcript of that meeting is, well, interesting. Adv. Maenetje seemed to think so too.
23 June 2020 was, of course, a date noted by Adv Ngwako Hamilton Maenetje SC in his 5 October ‘findings on appeal’. His ruling, in my opinion, is a serious indictment of St Stithians’ handling of my daughters’ matter since 31 May 2020 and highlights multiple errors of very poor judgment. It is also a good barometer for the climate on campus during 2020.
By 23 June 2020, the capture of St Stithians was effectively complete.
The capture committee
From 12 to 23 June 2020, I got to meet and interact with the people who orchestrated, supervised, executed, and adjudicated the attack on my daughter: Sally James, Leanne Horwitz, and Ntombi Langa-Royds. They are respectively the second, third, and fourth defendants in the first matter (for costs) that I as the plaintiff have put before the courts, the first defendant being St Stithians College represented by Celeste Gilardi.
This capture project was executed by an unofficial ‘capture committee’ (CC) whose primary membership consisted of at least 1 student, 17 alumni, 2 governors, 2 managers, 1 teacher, and 2 consultants. Between 31 May and 23 June 2020, this committee steered intentional and malicious attacks on at least 4 students and 15 teachers.
Mission accomplished, the CC transformed into an unofficial implementation committee (IC) which from 24 June 2020 has effectively managed St Stithians, monitored progress, and reported back to the governing CC. I estimate the CC consisted of over 30 people, several of whom still sit on the IC. The previous formal governing and managing structures now serve to rubber-stamp decisions of the CC and IC and to provide the appearance of continuity, credibility, and legitimacy.
Like with my daughter’s matter, St Stithians’ version of the events of June 2020 will not withstand independent scrutiny or legal challenge. In the interests of truth, and the urgent need to protect minors, their parents, and their teachers, I believe that a full forensic investigation should take place followed by referral to the relevant authorities for rulings and further action where necessary.
Notable movements since 2020
Ntombi Langa-Royds was appointed Chair of Council in 2022, taking over from college alum Nolte whose term reached its end in 2021.
Over at the Girls’ College, Sally James handed an additional role to Leanne Horwitz via her reappointment as Head of Diversity and Transformation. Leanne Horwitz had held that position in the past but was replaced by Mr. Motsamai Nonyane, before taking over from him again in 2021. Word is that Motsamai Nonyane prefers to focus on teaching mathematics.
Leanne Horwitz has recently been appointed an Acting Deputy Head of the Girls’ College.
2021 and 2022 witnessed the loss of several long-serving and highly competent teachers, including key STEM subjects. Most resigned due to the aggressive identity politics agenda being pushed daily by Celeste Gilardi, Sally James, and Leanne Horwitz. Another common characteristic is that they were often harassed and bullied with false and unfounded allegations, the same modus operandi experienced by my daughter and other students and teachers in June 2020.
Several of the replacement teachers failed their probation periods, and the number of advertised vacancies has been steadily increasing.
God forbid you’re no ally
I have, in previous opinions (part 2 and part 3), raised some of the outcomes of the June 2020 capture, and will expand in due course. Some are just sad while others are really frightening, such as the multiple risks to academic, sporting, emotional, and health outcomes for minors, while parents seem to carry the additional burden of illegal changes being forced upon their contractual arrangements, further infringing upon their and their children's individual constitutional rights.
While parents grapple with the details and consequences of the capture of the heart and soul of St Stithians, perhaps I should share this poem by someone familiar with the environment at GC:
“We are Saints
And here you can see
Everyone and everything
From afab, amab to howling wolves
But no “normal” students in sight
See, here is where werewolves, oddballs and XYZ unite
God forbid you’re no ally
We will collude to bring your demise
No matter what the price
Triple R we know not how
What matters more is being woke
LGBTQIA+ is our alphabet
Spelling matters not in our quest
To bring unrest
We are Saints but not saintly
Hear our roar!”
Word of the year for the 2021 matric girls was “damage”, with videos of celebrations and dance posted just a few weeks after KZN’s July riots.
I’m not sure how employable future alumni will be.
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