Sadtu declares war

2014-07-27 15:02

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‘Anyone who has planned that they are going to fight Sadtu must know we will fight back.”

That was the stark warning from SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke – and it came just hours after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga named the panel that will investigate allegations of “posts for cash” in the powerful union.

Speaking at the union’s KwaZulu-Natal congress on Wednesday, Maluleke said: “Whether you are HOD [head of department] or the general manager, if you are going to declare war on Sadtu, know that you will be gone.”

Motshekga set up the panel in response to a series of City Press exposés in which teachers and principals claimed that strategically placed Sadtu members in provincial education departments were selling posts for R20?000 upwards.

The panel will be chaired by Professor John Volmink, the newly appointed chair of the quality assurance council, Umalusi. It will be able to recommend criminal action where necessary and offer advice about how the existing appointments process should be changed to make it more effective and less open to abuse.

While the panel’s appointment has taken some time, Motskhekga’s office has been “flooded” with approaches from would-be whistle-blowers, said a senior official who is not allowed to talk to the media and so can’t be quoted.

“Part of the delay has been about looking at how we can protect people who come forward. We are taking this very seriously,” the official said.

“We can’t have a situation where members of the public provide information or give evidence and are targeted and somebody loses their life.”

Sadtu earlier welcomed the inquiry and promised to cooperate, but Maluleke’s militant words and a range of resolutions aimed at increasing the union’s power and influence suggest it is changing its tune.

Sadtu has 260?000 members and represents about 70% of the country’s teachers.

Addressing the opening session of the congress, provincial chairperson Mabutho Cele told delegates education could only be transformed if Sadtu members occupied all key posts in the education department because they “understand transformation”.

He said: “We will continue to deploy to the state. The department of basic education should be occupied by progressive workers who are Sadtu members. Let us be aggressive like we have never been before.”

According to him, teachers should be in their classrooms at all times – with one exception. “The only time teachers should not be in school is when they have been called to a meeting by Sadtu,” he said.

Cele and other Sadtu leaders dismissed the allegations of post-selling by the union, which was exposed by City Press in April, saying this was aimed at destabilising it and thwarting its agenda to transform education.

“How can we sell a product that we do not produce or manage? That is not our product,” he said.

Maluleke also weighed in with threats of strike action over housing benefits and salaries, and questioned the shortened December holidays, saying that children had “still passed” when the holidays were longer.

The congress resolutions include calling for a summit to stop “vengeful” and “punitive” disciplinary procedures against Sadtu members and a stay of all existing disciplinary cases to “stop school governing bodies from encroaching in schools and professional matters”.

Sadtu’s political enemies were also not left out.

Other resolutions called for the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA from Cosatu and the dismissal of the federation’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi.

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