PUBLIC schools on the North Coast have been shut down since last Friday when the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) went on a mass strike demanding the removal of the Department of Education’s iLembe district director Thembinkosi Vilakazi.Local branches of the Progressive Youth Alliance, the ANC, SACP and Cosatu were part of the strike with the trade union and on Monday officially stating their support.Sadtu has vowed to continue the mass action, which has put a halt to teaching and learning, until their demands are met. Corruption and cronyism were among allegations levelled against Vilakazi. She was also dubbed an incompetent leader by the union. She is further being blamed for the shortage of books in some schools, and for some schools failing to pay for water and electricity. Some schools don’t have security guards even though they have made several requests for them.The absence of a district official to accept the union’s memorandum on Friday was viewed by members as intentional just to frustrate their efforts because Vilakazi was aware of the strike. The memorandum was accepted by a representative from the Department of Education who reportedly did not want to engage with union members or comment on the situation.Sadtu’s memorandum states that the relationship between the district director and the union is not cordial. The memorandum lists the union’s “irritations” as follows: “DTTs - Vilakazi does not attend these [District Task Team] meetings [DTTs], where all unions come together and meet with senior management of the district to discuss the running of the district and take decisions that will impact schools]. “Favouritism versus victimisation and racism. Lack of proper planning, district has no year plan. Poor learner performance. No transparency in infrastructure improvement and maintenance. No transparency in learner transport. No transparency in awarding of tenders for school nutrition. Meddling in the affairs of the union. Failure to issue out improved PPN certificates for schools, meaning schools where the enrolment of pupils has increased, that particular school qualifies to be appointed an additional educator, this has not been done by Vilakazi.”It goes on to state that some schools do not have principals because Vilakazi does not want to appoint “those who she does not favour”.Also stated in the memorandum: “We further want to reiterate that there is no DTT that has sat to earnestly discuss matric results and the underperformance,” reads the memorandum with regards to the district’s dismal pass rate. “We hereby declare that our relations with Thembinkosi Vilakazi has reached irreparable damage. We demand that she be removed from iLembe District and for the department to gainfully utilise her somewhere else.” The strike was joined by Sadtu members who came from Pinetown, KwaMashu and Verulam, where schooling was stopped so that teachers from these areas could be part of the strike action.Addressing Sadtu members outside the district offices, Sadtu regional chairperson Simon Dlamini, urged members to reserve their energy because it might take time for their demands to be met. He reiterated accusations made against Vilakazi that are contained in the memorandum. He further alleged that Vilakazi seems to entangle politics with work matters. He said Friday’s action was not merely about marching and handing over a memorandum, saying that the time for negotiations had lapsed, and that the union must fight for what it wants. Attempts to contact Vilakazi were unsuccessful and the Weekly was referred to the education department for comment. Attempts to get comment from the department, on behalf of Vilakazi, were unsuccessful at the time of going to press.