26 March 2009
In education, when it comes to claims and counter-claims about the size of a union`s membership only one figure counts for anything: the audited membership figures of the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), which determines the voting strength of each union in the ELRC. Over the last year, SADTU`s combined voting strength has slightly increased from 66.69% to 66.93% (with the numbers for Mpumalanga a traditional SADTU stronghold - still to be added in.) These are the voting numbers for 2009.
This puts paid to the false claims by former President, Willie Madisha, that tens of thousands of teachers have left SADTU to join his new independent` union.
The media is being taken for a ride by Madisha and his masters in COPE. Just check the media statements of Madisha/COPE for the last four months on their claims to form a new federation and create a teachers breakaway union and then see how these measure up against reality. In December, Madisha was already claiming tens of thousands of members in the E Cape, W Cape and Limpopo. There is still no evidence of this. In January, Madisha threatened to lead a march of hundreds of teachers to SADTU`s national office to present their resignations. Again nothing happened.
Madisha himself is a businessman. He is no longer a teacher, having been dismissed by the Limpopo Department of Education for absconding from his post. He is therefore not eligible to lead a real trade union.
Let us examine the case for an independent` union and union federation. There are already unions and federations that describe themselves as independent or non-party political. Madisha`s rather ineffectual campaign, at best, adds to this confusion. But clearly Madisha`s efforts are backed by COPE: hardly independent of party politics.
As SADTU we reject the notion that we are under the control of any political party. As part of COSATU we have chosen to enter a strategic alliance with the ANC and SACP in order to benefit our members, the working class and the poor. When we disagreed with the policies of the Mbeki government we made our opposition known. Indeed, the media was at pains to point out that COSATU was the only effective opposition to that government. Today, SADTU and COSATU say to the ANC: we fully support your election campaign, but we are not issuing a blank cheque. We expect the ANC to implement the pro-poor and pro-working class commitments in the manifesto.
Thobile Ntola, President 079 491 3258
Mugwena Maluleka, Deputy General Secretary 082 783 2968
Jon Lewis, Media Officer 082 567 5628