Bobby Soobrayan 'took fall' for Cosatu

2014-04-06 14:01

Basic Education director-general Bobby Soobrayan was “sacrificed” in a bid to bolster public support for Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini by the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu).

This is according to very senior officials and leaders in ANC , the the department and the union. They all described Soobrayan’s removal from the position he has occupied since 2010 as “political”.

The department announced on Monday that Soobrayan would be redeployed and Minister Angie Motshekga’s spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi would become acting director-general.

Sadtu has mounted a sustained campaign to get rid of Soobrayan and Motshekga over the past two years. Sadtu is extremely powerful?–?its 250 000-plus members make it second only to metalworkers’ union Numsa in terms of numbers.

The officials and leaders said although Sadtu was backing Dlamini in his fight against ­Cosatu’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, the union’s support was lacklustre.

“The same applies with its election campaign [for the ANC ahead of the May 7 polls],” a senior member of the ANC said. He added that “ we had to rescue the alliance through [Soobrayan]. The politics of Cosatu can destabilise the country.

“Numsa wants Sadtu to be one of the organisations revolting against Cosatu. Sadtu is a strategic ally in keeping Cosatu intact, but the union is reluctant because it is not getting its way in the department of basic education. So we had to balance that,”he said.

Last year, Motshekga placed Soobrayan on special leave and appointed a retired judge to probe claims against him by Sadtu, including that he reneged on collective bargaining agreements.

The matter was also investigated by the Public Service Commission. Both parties cleared Soobrayan of any wrongdoing. He returned to work in February, much to Sadtu’s displeasure.

An offical said: “It was a political solution so that the politics of Cosatu don’t derail the elections and the country.”

Another official , who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said: “The ANC caved into [Sadtu general secretary] Mugwena Maluleke because he will support Sdumo in the battle for Cosatu.”

He said Soobrayan had wanted to leave the department for some time, but would not do so before clearing his name.

“Now that his name is clean, he is all too happy to go,” he said. Soobrayan this week refused to discuss his redeployment, nor where he would go next. Maluleke denied that Soobrayan was sacrificed to heal divisions in the union.

“We have said that internal Cosatu processes should take place without any interference. Historically, we have also supported the ANC during elections and we are not going to change that now.”

He said Soobrayan was the worst director-general since 1994.

Another official agreed that Soobrayan’s removal was linked to alliance politics and said the director-general had been targeted because he was trying to clean up tender corruption.

Another official said Soobrayan had turned the department around and its performance had vastly improved under him.

The ANC Youth League and the Congress of South African Students last year accused Sadtu of using Soobrayan as a scapegoat.

They said the union was being used by book publishers to fight proxy wars on their behalf against the department.

Sadtu denied this and appointed a legal firm to probe the allegations against it. Maluleke said the union had completed the investigation and was now disciplining people. He declined to provide the names of those being disciplined.

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