Newsmaker – Sadtu: We’re not to blame

2014-05-11 15:00

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Mugwena Maluleke is the man in charge of the country’s second-largest trade union, the 257?000-member SA Democratic ­Teachers’ Union (Sadtu).

The 51-year-old, who was born on a farm in Mookgopong, ­Limpopo, began his career as a temporary English and maths teacher in 1985.

He rose through the ranks to become principal of the Rodney Mokoena Secondary School in Soshanguve, Pretoria. He was elected general secretary of Sadtu in 2009.

For the past two weeks, City Press has run a series of exposés on a jobs-for-cash racket that members of his union have been running since the late 1990s.

In KwaZulu-Natal, principals who buy their posts for upwards of R30?000 make their money back by selling entry-level teaching jobs at their schools for as little as R6?500.

Across the country, inexperienced teachers can become principals if they pay for the posts, thanks to corrupt Sadtu members and provincial education ­officials.

And teachers who want to use their pensions to pay off debts can resign, receive their payouts and immediately return to their jobs if they pay between R30?000 and R50?000.


What is your response to the City Press articles about Sadtu officials’ ­involvement in the jobs-for-cash scam?

I take serious exception to the newspaper saying that Sadtu is involved in a ­jobs-for-cash scam. People are doing these things individually. It has not been ­sanctioned by Sadtu as a union.

If we had approved of it, these people would then bring the R30?000, which they get by selling a position, into Sadtu’s coffers. Individuals are abusing the union’s name.

But it is happening?

Yes, which is why we have appointed the Education Labour Relations Council and the SA Council for Educators to investigate the allegations. We have also ­welcomed Minister Angie Motshekga’s judicial commission to probe the matter.

But the SA Council for Educators and the Education Labour Relations Council are packed with Sadtu members and are like an ­extension of the union. Isn’t that like me appointing my son to investigate me?

We are committed to rooting out corruption. The SA Council for Educators is the custodian of the profession. It is an independent institution. These are serious ­allegations and, if [the council] values the profession, it will probe without fear or favour. How many teachers has the SA Council for Educators struck off the role for ­misconduct? [The council] has done this before and it will act as ­professionals in the interests of the profession.

Surely you were aware of this practice?

I wasn’t aware of any of the cases reported by City Press. No one has ever come forward. We know of one case that happened in 2006. We reported the matter to the department and the police. The principal was bust while buying a position.

Interestingly, the department did nothing and the guy is still working. Why did they not charge him?

It shows that their officials are also involved in this. (Maluleke declined to reveal the identity of the principal concerned.)

The other case I know of is the one involving Mathonsi [Sadtu’s KwaZulu-Natal secretary Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, who allegedly sold a director position for R100?000].

Zwelinzima Vavi brought it to my attention in 2012 and we dealt with the matter. Other than these two cases, I know absolutely nothing.

Several teachers across the country have told City Press how they were victimised by Sadtu officials who wield enormous influence in the filling of positions.

That is an unfounded allegation. People who have evidence must come forward?...?I deny that Sadtu officials influence the appointment of people to their positions.

We have also heard allegations that entry-level teachers with neither the proper qualifications nor experience are parachuted into principals’ positions.

It is not irregular for an entry-level teacher to become a principal. According to the regulations, anyone with seven years’ appropriate experience can become a ­principal. And the experience does not necessarily have to be in teaching.

Preferably though, I would like a principal to come through the ranks. Ideally, the person should have been a teacher, a head of department, a deputy principal and then a principal.

But I must stress that it is not a requirement for teachers to go through these steps before becoming principals.

If you do not have the experience or the qualifications, there is no way you can ever be appointed to become a principal.

What do you make of the assertions by senior provincial department officials that your union is too powerful and that more than 90% of the department’s senior positions are filled by Sadtu members?

Being powerful is relative. We should be happy that we have a united, strong and organised union. I will not deny that the majority of our members work for the ­department. That is the space we operate in. Those who have shown a leadership capacity apply as individuals and they are appointed to positions.

Sadtu members have been accused of spending more time on union business than doing their jobs. What do you say to this?

We are on record as saying that a principal cannot be a full-time shop steward because we know he has to run a school. Time spent away from school on union duty is also regulated. A principal has to make sure that pupils are not left in the lurch while a teacher is away on union duty.

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