Presidency 'shocked' at Zille comments

By Drum Digital
23 March 2012

The presidency said on Thursday it is "shocked and disappointed" at comments made by Western Cape premier Helen Zille on teachers in the Eastern Cape.

Zille had misled the public by saying President Jacob Zuma had praised the SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) even though it was in the middle of a strike in the Eastern Cape, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

"We have no idea why premier Zille has singled out Sadtu and left out other teacher unions," Maharaj said.

"Teachers are an important stakeholder in the education of children."

Zille told a Human Rights Day march in Port Elizabeth that a situation where teachers' rights to strike trumped the rights of pupils to learn, compromising their ability to reach their full potential.

Many schools across the country were being held hostage, and Zille criticised Sadtu for "slamming the door in the faces of our children".

The government was "standing idly" watching it happen, she said. She had witnessed "political expediency in its worst form" when Zuma "flippantly" thanked Sadtu in his state of the nation address.

Zuma had sold out the potential and future prospects of every South African pupil for a few extra votes in Bloemfontein, where the African National Congress would elect new leaders in December, Zille said.

Maharaj said Zille had misrepresented Zuma's comments. Zuma had been referring to all teacher unions in his state-of-the-nation speech.

"Ms Zille misled the public by saying president Zuma had praised Sadtu, even though they were in the middle of striking in the Eastern Cape. That is simply not true. The president did not mention Sadtu at all in the 2012 state-of-the-nation speech."

According to Maharaj, Zuma said: "Our call to teachers to be in school, in class, on time, teaching for at least seven hours a day remains pivotal to success."

He said the Eastern Cape government and Sadtu had signed an agreement on February 8 to "normalise" the situation in the province and "to promote quality learning and teaching".

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