South African Democratic Teachers Union
Joint SADTU-SIHOLD Sod-Turning Ceremony
Kempton Park, 12.00 12 September 2014

Keynote Address:
Cde Thulas Nxesi MP
[former General Secretary & Minister of Public Works]

·        President of COSATU, Cde S’dumo Dlamini
·        General Secretary, SADTU, Cde Mugwena Maluleke
·        SADTU Leadership – national, provincial and branch
·        Cde Makgamo Thobejane, NEHAWU
·        SIHOLD Board members
·        SADTU Investment Trust Chair, Cde Harold Samuel and Trustee, Cde Duncan Hindle
·        Reverend Vukile Mehana
·        Staff and membership of SADTU
·        Comrades

It gives me great pleasure to participate in this auspicious occasion – the SADTU-SIHOLD Joint Sod-Turning Ceremony. This represents the culmination of 5 years of very careful planning and martialling of resources. Today marks the symbolic start of the building phase, when we begin to see the realisation of an ambitious vision for the construction of the SADTU Village – a purpose-built national office, training institute, conference centre and 250-bed residential complex.

Who would have thought it in 1990 when we established this Union with thirty thousand members – most of whom were not paid up; with only a handful of full-time staff – dependent for their salaries on the solidarity of the international teacher trade union movement. Who would have thought that within two decades, membership would stand at over quarter of a million, and the Union would be planning to construct this multi-million rand national office – to better service the membership.

SADTU, you have come a long way, and it has not always been an easy journey.

On a personal note, I want to acknowledge my debt to this mighty union. SADTU was my mentor for 20 years. SADTU trained me and educated me – both in organisational skills, and politically – and together, as the teachers of South Africa, we built, for the first time, a mighty non-racial, democratic teachers’ union.

SADTU’s roots lie in the struggle against apartheid and the struggle to establish a democratic and socialist labour movement in South Africa. SADTU was built on the following principles:
·        Democratic, worker-controlled, militant trade unionism;
·        Professionalism – understood to mean the need to transform the education system and to build People’s Education, whilst delivering quality education to all our children, and
·        A political commitment to a wider vision of national liberation and the struggle for socialism.

As SADTU, you always saw the bigger picture and you were a leading part of that wider movement for national liberation, and after 1994 for transformation.

At the 2011 NGC, as SADTU you crystalized that bigger picture into the ‘SADTU 2030 Vision’ – in line with the aims of the NDP. It is very clear to me that the building of this national SADTU Village plays an important role in the realisation of the 2030 Vision. As you know, the Vision is based on Five Pillars:


In this PILLAR the union will focus on the following:

  • Extensive research on appropriate conditions of service for a teacher in a developmental state;
  • Continuous redefinition of teacher conditions of service to be commensurate with the inflationary realities of the society we operate within;
  • Implementing membership benefits that create a community of members thus creating a SADTU experience to be aspired to;
  • Establishing targeted capacity building programmes that empower the SADTU members.

I would like to think that the establishment of a purpose-built national office, with the necessary resources and expertise, will help spearhead an incremental improvement in service to members.

In particular the establishment of a training institute and a conference centre will help drive capacity building programmes in relation to:

·        Professional development;
·        Collective bargaining, and
·        Political education – I believe that, as a movement, we would not be experiencing the current problems if we had invested in a comprehensive programme of political education for every member of SADTU.


  • Creating, through our classroom commitments, a nation that learns and advances its civilisation
  • Extensive and teacher based research on the best possible methods of teaching.
  • Continuous improvement of learning through the introduction of nation-building learning material.

Again, the establishment of the Training Institute and the Conference facility will greatly assist in these objectives.


  • Creating and participating in public awareness campaigns that define the national development trajectory for the coming fifty years;
  • Enhance national development awareness through the creation and promotion of a national value system that supports South Africa’s development trajectory;
  • Reorient membership to focus on national development objectives through learning content delivered to those entrusted to our care;
  • Creating a patriotic cadre of teachers and learners through socially cohesive programmes.

Again, I see the Training Institute having a major role to play here in relation to curriculum development as well as training of members.


  • Creating criteria for international cooperation that are based on the what defining characteristics and principles of SADTU;
  • Promote international solidarity programmes that are based on SADTU’s core belief system;
  • Establishing a continent-biased international relations programme that defines policy on affiliation and/or disaffiliation to international bodies; and
  • Creating a cross-border community of industry like-mindedness within first the SADC region and later Africa as a whole.

I would like to believe, that when the Training Institute and conference facilities are in place, they will be made available for international meetings and events – involving teacher organisations from SADC, Africa and the rest of the world – both to expand the experience of SADTU members and to extend solidarity to fellow unionists from beyond our borders.


  • Building a sustainable revenue base that is complementary to membership subscriptions
  • Creating a SADTU Village that promotes organisational excellence in all fields of required management
  • Creating an organiser capacity that sustains and increases current membership levels.

This is crucial comrades, we are only strong if we are organised. I can see the SADTU Village as a national hub of organisational activity – training organisers, shop stewards, leadership on a continuous basis – so that the national office becomes much more than an administrative centre, but also is massively enhanced as the organising centre of the Union.

Crucially, the 2030 Vision is based on the development of a new kind of SADTU member – an informed member – involved in the transformation agenda: 

  • Early at school
  • Well prepared 
  • Informed and teaching
  • An ideal revolutionary teacher characterised by the following:
  • able to mitigate the effects of the onslaught by the liberal media against the working class through correcting misinformation and contesting wrong ideas propagated by media;
  • knowing that education is not, and was never, ideologically neutral; and
  • fully aware that it is through education that our history, cultures, values and heritage get told.

I have no doubt that the Training Institute and Conference Centre will be pivotal in the development of the SADTU member.

This is crucial comrades. We are moving into an era where increasingly young teachers will be coming through who do not share the same experiences of past struggles. SADTU has to engage with them – to take up  their issues; to facilitate their participation; as well as to share with them the historical experience of the Union so that they know where we come from.

We have to take seriously the task of cadre development and membership education, if we are to combat the new tendency where individuals join organisations – not to fight for a common good – but for personal benefit and enrichment. Again, I see the SADTU Village raising the bar in this respect.

In concluding, let me sound a word of caution. We are here today to mark this milestone event in the life of SADTU – the building of the new national SADTU Village complex. Indeed, this is a time for celebration.

But, we know that the strength and power of a union can never be measured by its wealth, its investments or the scale of its property holdings. We must never forget, that a Union is only as strong as its members. By that I mean, the Union is strong when:

  • It attracts and retains members in large numbers;
  • Union members are united and well organised;
  • Those members are educated – in terms of their trade union rights, professional development and political education; and
  • The Union services its members – and encourages democratic participation by members at every level – so that the Union remains accountable to the members.

This is the kind of unionism that made SADTU – and COSATU – strong in the past. It will keep you strong in the face of the many challenges to come.

I thank you.