Address by the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Cde Blade Nzimande

SADTU National General Council,

Premier Hotel – OR Tambo,

26th October 2012

President and the collective leadership of SADTU,
Leadership and Delegates from the various regions and branches
Comrades invited your different capacities

Firstly, let me acknowledge my overlapping mandates. On the one hand I have been invited to speak in my capacity as the General Secretary of the SACP and on the other, and I assume, Comrades expect me to shed light on progress we are making in relation to implementation of the Polokwane resolutions, particularly on post-schooling and continuing education sector.

Comrades allow me to express on behalf of the SACP, our appreciation for this comradely gesture, which continues to cement our long history of solid revolutionary identity. This NGC could not have come at an opportune time, when the world-over is celebrating the World Teachers month (October 5, is World Teacher Day). Coincidentally, October is also particularly poignant in that it is the birth-month of Mahatma Gandhi and OR Tambo, whose commitment to fighting social and economic injustices remain unequalled.

This NGC could not have come at a better time, when we in the SACP and COSATU have just emerged from successful 13th and 11th National Congresses respectively. Both these congresses were a huge success in that delegates, from the ranks of the organized detachment of the working class, took time to reflect on progress made by and challenges facing individual organizations in advancing our socialist agenda in the workplace, government and social spheres.

In particular, our conference as the SACP focused mainly on reviewing the progress made over the past five years in advancing our Medium Term Vision of building working class hegemony in all key sites of power. What is common about the resolve of the two conferences is that both organizations emerged with collective leadership that is united around a militant programme of action, directed at deepening the national democratic revolution as our most direct route to socialism.

Most importantly, the timing of the NGC lays a fresh foundation for important policy discourse as we prepare ourselves for the ANC Congress in Mangaung in December. It creates an opportunity to re-define our organizational consciousness, perspective and expectations principled enough to resist any form of ideological pollution by capitalist propaganda, sold by populist tabloids.

Notably, this unique Conference marks the celebration of the movement’s centenary chapter. This NGC therefore empowers us Comrades, with the strength and energy to mobilize our cadres and at least those who identify with us, consciously and ideologically, to deepen our class offensive against our enemy number one; capitalist and corrupt elements within and outside of our movement, whose greed and appetite for opulence and conspicuous consumption are destroying the values of the ANC that have been upheld for 100 years. 

We are making this assertion with a clear conscious that our policy positions do not sit well with the enemies of socialism within the movement, and we are aware that they ready to shout us down to appease our enemies outside of the movement. We are mindful of the fact that since the unbanning of liberation movements and our democratic breakthrough, the ANC has also been invaded by all sorts of characters, who have the potential to pollute the values of the movement. And logically, ‘we need to consistently reclaim the moral high ground for a radical NDR perspective’ and be aggressive in protecting our organizational values and popular ideologies that have kept our revolution alive for the past century. In his expression of Chinese concerns on domestic political impact of foreign ideas on Chinese open policy regiment, Deng Xiaoping remarked that ‘when you open the window, flies and mosquitoes come in’.

What ideological and consequential lessons can we learn from Deng’s expression? What impact does ideological grounding (or lack of) from some form of ‘foreign political origins’ have on our movement and socialist project? How can we defeat the narrow political interest that if spreading like cancer? How can we build a cadre that values humanity and citizenship?

Comrades, we are asking and asserting ourselves at a time of intensified offensive against the working class populace by capitalism, manifesting itself as a microcosm of economic emancipation when in fact, it is the van-guard of economic enslavement. Quite often, the strategy is to exploit the vulnerable class with the sole intention to weaken the organized and strong socialist formations, and ultimately the working class. Tragically, it has the potential to engulf even the ‘highly principled cadres’.

Comrades will recall that at your 2011 NGC, we cautioned delegates that “the working class is also faced with intensified capitalist restructuring of the workplace and the working class itself, through casualisation, outsourcing, mechanization, retrenchments and labour brokering as part of the intensification of the exploitation of the working class.’

We rang this bell amidst the declining US hegemony in both international political arena and economic stages, with significant poor growth prospects across major developed worlds. This was in sharp contrast to the shifting global dynamism towards the key developing countries (BRICS) which have embraced a balanced in-ward and out-ward domestic growth projects, based on industrialization programmes that we identify with.

Capitalism has over many decades proved to be a total disaster, limping from one crisis to the other, causing civil unrests and military conflicts, famine, poverty and hunger. Most often, it is the poor who are hard hit by its ‘remarkable failures’. The 2008 catastrophic economic down-turn is a living testimony of the misery experienced by working class across the globe, particularly women who are generally at the cold face of global poverty. As a result, they suffered massive losses in income, restricted cash-flow and highly increased commodity prices.

Since the ‘96 class project’ unforgivable liberal policies, income inequalities have widened beyond comprehension, with a handful of BEE capitalists and tenderprenueurs sitting on over 80% of national wealth, a true reflection of North-South economic divide. Youth unemployment is rife, this age cohort lacks the required skills to participate in the industrilising economy, poverty and hunger persist unabated. We have to draw the line. The first line of attack is the acceleration of relevant and quality education for all, taught by committed revolutionary educators and utilized by revolutionized generations, capable of contributing towards the development of a modern economy.

This is the mandate drawn from the Freedom Charter of opening the doors of learning and culture, and the ANC coined “People’s Education for People’ Power” which are the bedrock for education as a development policy. The NEC January 8 Statement further amplified this by calling for an “urgent and practical steps to place education and skills development at the centre of our transformation and development agenda” and that all progressive forces become the custodians of this commitment.

This commitment is made against that background of enormous human resource shortage due to under-supply of skills required by our economy and under-development in rural areas. The poor responsive human capital stock affects employability of the workforce, particularly young people. Currently, our unemployment rate stands at a staggering 24%.

The most concerning feature is the steadily growing number of young people who are ‘not in education, employment or training (NEETs). This number currently stands at approximately 3.2 million out of a total population of 6.8 for that age group. There are multiple factors contributing to this problem, and include:

  • Poor performance in schools, particularly in Mathematics and Science;
  • Low level of teacher competence at school and FET levels;
  • Under-preparedness and poor performance, 30% of University of Technikon students spend five years to complete a three year programme;
  • Attrition at university (almost 40% students drop-out of university in their first year of study); and
  • Limited access to HEI owing to a lack articulation strategy in the system in general, and between and across institutions in particular.

This inherent wastage of human capital limits South Africa’s growth potential in general, and the development of the working class in particular. In a long term, it will affect the country’s economic competitiveness and standing on the continent.

Moving forward
As the Party, we have not shifted from our policy position. As we have said before, we believe that the economy can be rescued from the capitalist bondage by making the right investment choices. We have made this call, and we continue to call for:

  • Departure from financial sector dominant economy;
  • Departure of domestic consumption of foreign products
  • Re-industrialization of the economy;
  • Revatilising our manufacturing capacity of the country; and
  • Accelerated Investment into infrastructure.

In the same breath, we applaud President Zuma’s administration for committing to this cause. In his 2012 State of the Nation Address the President announced an increased investment in the green economy, tourism, road, rail and port infrastructure, mining value chain and agricultural value chain. The Infrastructure Initiative, first announced by the President has 18 Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs), each with their own array of subordinate projects which reach into every province. This initiative has been identified as one of the key vehicle to stimulate the economy, create employment, reduce and eradicate poverty and inequality.  

The goals are to: promote balanced economic development; to unlock new economic opportunities; to address socio-economic needs; to promote job creation and to help integrate human settlements and economic development. All these are in line with the New Growth Path (NGP), a policy guideline which attempts to balance both macro and micro aspects of our economy.

For these initiatives to bear any meaning to poor, we need to revolutionize our skills development path that would produce a “skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path.”

Comrades, let me remind you that a decade ago, international agencies and advocacy bodies lobbied for provision and access to universal basic education, a centre-piece of the MDG. This cause has significantly improved literacy levels, particularly in under-developed and developing worlds. As a country, we surpassed the benchmark way before time. Important as this undertaken may have been, the initiative fell short of another kind of challenge; lack of vocational and occupational skills needed to participate in an industrializing economy in general, and of late in the Presidential Strategic Infrastructure Projects in particular.

Another worrying trend has been the elevation of university education at the expense of the much needed vocational and occupational skills, and this has resulted in undesirable enrolment patterns across the institutions. Empirical evidence suggests that we currently have a ratio of 3:1 university to FET institution instead of the opposite. Countries such as South Korea and India have expressed similar concerns about the prestige associated with university degree, irrespective of whether it is useful or not. What is even more worrying is the mismatch between teacher supply and demand, which is occurring against the backdrop of retirements, career changes, illnesses and deaths. In his speech at your last 2011 NGC, Cde Tyotyo James quoted a UN report as saying that Sub-Saharan Africa was facing a crisis situation, projecting that South Africa alone would need more than 242 000 new educators in the year 2015.

In response and guided government-wide policy, DHET has made significant strides in accelerating skills development and it is important that we share some of these achievements and developments. We have:

  • Brought all skills development institutes (except sector-based public colleges) under one department. These include FET Colleges and SETAs
  • Increased financial support for FET College students (full bursary) and university students through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NASFAS), and introducing fee-free studies for qualifying final year undergraduate university students;
  • Reconfigured the SETA landscape to respond more effectively to skills development needs in the country, among others promoting access to HET in rural areas through the opening of SETA offices in FET colleges;
  • Finalised the location of the seats of the new universities to be established in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, and significant progress towards their establishment; and
  • In collaboration with DBE and SAQA, launched a career guidance campaign.
  • Over and above, we have successfully developed a green paper on post-schooling and continuing education, and we are now in the process of developing a white paper of which the draft will be ready for Mangaung.
  • As a new Department, we continue to tap-in external expertise to assist us in this building phase, and I have appointed a number of Ministerial Task Teams to assist the Department both at the level systems development and improvement.  

The Educator Question

In conjunction with DBE and key stakeholders, DHET has finalized the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development (2011- 2025), and implementing as part of this the Strengthening Foundation Phase Teacher Education Programme across our universities; SADTU has been active partner through its participation on the National Teacher Education and Development Committee.

The Department has set a target of 12 000 new teachers to be produced annually by the higher education system by 2014, and we are well on track to exceeding this, possibly reaching closer to 15 000. In 2011, just over 10 500 new teachers graduated from our universities, an increase of 31% from the 7 973 new teachers that graduated in 2010.

I have gazetted a new Policy on the Minimum Requirements for Teacher Education Qualifications in July last year, which sets minimum standards for teacher education programmes. This policy foregrounds knowledge as a central competence for teachers. It also puts in place specific requirements related to the teaching practice component of teacher education programmes. As this policy becomes fully implemented, we should see a qualitative improvement in teachers who complete the new qualification programmes, thus addressing the concerns related to quality and relevance.

In the same vein, the DHET is working on qualification frameworks for teachers in the FET College sector and in the Adult Education and Training sector. The policy for FET College lecturers is close to finalisation, and we hope to gazette it this financial year.

Processes have started to establish new teacher education college campuses in provinces where they are needed. These new campus sites will fall under the jurisdiction of selected universities and offer higher education qualifications to teachers, in line with the Policy on Minimum Requirements for Teacher Education Qualifications. The first of these will open in 2013. The University of Johannesburg will offer a Bachelor of Education for Foundation Phase teachers on the former Ndebele College of Education site in Siyabuswa. It is envisaged that this campus will become part of the new university in Mpumalanga once it is established. Plans are advancing to establish new campus sites in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo as well.

The Integrated Planning Framework also identified the availability of qualified and capable African Language Foundation Phase teachers as being particularly problematic. This obviously has severe implications for the development of early numeracy and literacy, the foundations for all future learning. African language learners in poor, rural contexts are most severely impacted

A European Union-supported sector policy support programme to strengthen Foundation Phase teacher education is already being implemented by the DHET. This programme will result in the number of universities that are involved in Foundation Phase teacher education to increase from a baseline of 13 in 2008 to 20 by 2014. The number of African Language Foundation Phase teacher education students will increase 10% year on year, dating back to the 2008 baseline.

Foundation Phase teacher education programmes will be more able to respond specifically to the need to prepare teachers to teach in diverse language contexts, rather than only focus on preparation of teachers for English of Afrikaans language contexts, as is presently the case in many institutions. We have made great strides towards establishing Foundation Phase teaching as an important focus of Teacher Education programmes offered at our institutions. These are exciting times for teacher education and development. Exciting times need revolutionaries. The DHET is indeed committed to the establishment of a strong teacher education and development system, and I am sure that SADTU is committed to this goal as well, and the creation of a professional development institute that will provide professional development opportunities for your members deserve applause.

Let me again salute you Comrades for your unwavering commitment to the cause of the working class education, and the struggle of the just cause in general. Our message to the NGC is clear: We must intensify our offensive against capitalism, its tentacles and its architects, until it collapses here at home and beyond.

Victory is Certain!