Speech by SADTU Deputy President Magope Maphila during Funeral of Poobie Naicker (former Deputy President of SADTU)

3 April 2014

Thank you Programme

Director for allowing me to speak on behalf of SADTU at this funeral of our fallen cadre, Cde Poobie Naicker.

Before I start, let me acknowledge the following: Edwin Pillay (once a Deputy President of SADTU), Cde Harold Samuels (The longtime friend of Cde Poobie and the first Treasurer of SADTU at its formation in 1990) Cde Randall Van Den Heever (the first General Secretary of SADTU ), Cde Thulas Nxesi (the first Deputy General Secretary of SADTU in 1990 at its formation, the former General Secretary until 2009 and the current Minister of Public Works) in absentia as he is still coming, Cde Rej Brij Raj (once a media convener of SADTU nationally), Cde Daya Govender (the once national negotiator of SADTU KZN and an alternate NEC member) Cde Matsetela from Limpopo), fellow NWC and NEC members, KZN PEC members present. Those that I have not seen to acknowledge, allow me to say protocol observed.

To the Naicker family, SADTU members and SIHOLD, SADTU veterans, friends, and community members, I greet you all. We are here to pay our last respect to our comrade and celebrate a life well lived.

There is a saying that when an elder dies, it is like the burning of a library. As SADTU, the well from which we quenched our thirst, has dried. We will miss your determination to the organization - your dedication, your humbleness, your infectious smile and most of all your love for SADTU.

Today is one of the most sorrowful days for all of us gathered in this hall. A day when we bid farewell to our beloved, Comrade Poobie Naicker. When the week began, no one ever thought it would end up in this manner. Our hearts are bleeding. We would like to express our sincerest condolences more especially to the Naicker family for the loss such a dear husband, a father and grandfather.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union is still in shock and battling to come to terms with this loss. Cde Naicker has always been part of SADTU. He became the first Deputy President of SADTU when the Union was officially launched on the 6th of October 1990 in Shareworld, Johannesburg. His leadership and wisdom has always propelled the union to where it is today. Even though he was retired, he continued to serve the union as a trustee of SADTU investment Trust with total dedication. That is why we Union chose to honour him by giving him honorary membership.

He may no longer be with us physically but his deeds will always remain with us. We may weep in morning but we should rejoice when we think of his legacy. Let us celebrate the humble teacher, humanitarian and democrat who shared his life with us. His leadership qualities and wisdom shaped SADTU to what it is today.

A son of a farmer who grew up working on a farm and later a factory worker before finally becoming a teacher, Cde Naicker developed a deeper understanding of the plight of the people in South Africa.

From early on, Cde Naicker realised the importance of education as one of the tools to empower people and to eradicate poverty. He also realised that education could not reach its full potential if people were still divided according to racial lines.

Before SADTU`s formation, Cde Naicker was President of the Teachers` Association of South Africa (TASA) - the biggest Indian teachers` union. TASA played a vital role towards SADTU`s formation. Even though TASA was dominated by Indian teachers, it was ahead of its time as it stood for non-racialism. Its constitution stipulated that it was open to everybody. However, it could not practice that due to the apartheid system in the country at the time.

When talks about the formation of a non-racial teacher union in South Africa began, leading to the Harare Declaration in Zimbabwe in 1988 and many meetings thereafter, TASA was fully engaged. TASA was among the first teacher formations that agreed to the unity of teachers and the formation of SADTU. It brought to SADTU its membership, assets, shares, secretariat support services and a 15-storey building in Durban that laid the foundation for the Union.

It was through the visionary leadership of people like Naicker that such a strong association could take a leap of faith and be part of the founding of SADTU.

Cde Naicker had a passion for communities and believed in a truly non-racial South Africa. His passion and beliefs which made him to fully embrace the idea of a united, non-racial, non-sexist teacher union which led to the formation of SADTU.

A teacher at heart, Cde Naicker served the teaching profession for 45 years . Naicker started schooling at the age of 10 and had to walk for 20 kilometers to school. A self taught man Cde Naicker studied part time to become a while he worked at a sugar mill. As a teacher, he never stopped empowering himself. he continued studying part time through the University of Natal and received his BA and B Ed degrees.

An organizer and a person who loved to work with people Cde Naicker became the founding member of the Natal Indian Teachers Society and was chairperson of the Umzinto branch. This Society evolved into the Teachers` Association of South Africa of which he became its president.

The Chilean poet and revolutionary composed a poem entitled, "So is my life." So is Poobie Naicker`s life.

" My duty moves along with my song:
I am I am not: that is my destiny.
I exist not if I do not attend to the pain of those who suffer: they are my pains.
For I cannot be without existing for all,
For all who are silent and oppressed
I come from the people and I sing for them:
My poetry is song and punishment.
I am told: you belong to darkness.
Perhaps, perhaps, but I walk toward the light.
I am the man of bread and fish
And you will not find me among books,
But with women and men:
They have taught me the infinite."

From Poobie Naicker we too have learnt the infinite. And so let us begin our last homage to a patriot, a comrade, a cadre of the mind as we accompany him to his place of infinite rest.

On behalf the SADTU National Executive Committee, allow us to say: May the soul of Cde Poobie Naicker rest in peace.

Thank you once more programme director for the opportunity given.

Again thank you.