Address by the Acting President of SADTU Cde Magope Maphila during SADTU’s 8th National Congress
2 – 5 October 2014, Birchwood Conference Centre in Benoni
Comrade Vice President of Gender, the Chairperson of the session;
National Working Committee Members;
The National Executive Committee;
Leadership of our Regions and Branches; Former Presidents, Cdes Shepherd Mdladlana, Duncan Hindle, Mabandla;
Former General Secretaries, Cde Randall and Cde Thulas Nxesi;
The former members of NEC and all National committees;
Comrades Delegates Revolutionary Alliance leaders (ANC led by Cde Jacob Zuma, SACP led by Cde Blade Nzimande, COSATU led by Cde Sdumo Dlamini);
Our International guests and friends;
The Mass Democratic Movement Organisations (COSAS , SASCO);
Leaders from teacher unions (Naptosa, SAOU) in South Africa;
Management from all sectoral organisation (ELRC, SACE, ETDP seta, SIHOLD, SIT led by Harold Samuels who often advises us that we are what we eat. He goes on to say he is reaping the benefits of eating properly when he was still young);
The Department of Education, Basic Education led by Angie Motshekga and Higher Education;
Invited Guests and Special Guests;
Comrades and Friends;
Media Houses both Print and Electronic
Let me first indicate that today, 2nd October, is a great day for SADTU. A day which marks the birth day of Mahatma Gandhi, the founder member of the Peaceful Resistance Movement which saw significant movement forward in trying to dislodge the heartless National Party Government. We honor this patriot for his fearlessness and organizational finesse.
Comrades this 8th National Congress is taking place within a milieu/ environment of extremes. The proponents and beneficiaries of the capitalistic and neo liberal world order would like to cajole the world and especially the working class and the poor that capitalism has distributed world wealth than in the previous century while they know in their hearts that this system has vengefully caused untold sorrows, miseries and mayhem amongst nations. The working class knows the bitter truth.
Marx and Engels pointed it out early in 1848 that” the history of the all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Free man and slave, patrician and commoners, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large or the common ruin of the contenting classes”. This still rings true today.
This fight is sometimes hidden and sometimes open as Marx said it.
Comrades this congress is taking place during a period of an open fight declared by the neo liberal, imperialist forces under the direct tutelage of the United States of America and Britain. Greed knows no boundaries.
The Congress is taking place against a backdrop of a non‐ending open war in Iraq, which started under a camouflage of an expedition for weapons of mass destruction, which Iraq never possessed. There is an unending war in Lybia which was merely a war to effect Regime change. There is a war in Egypt which was fully sponsored to effect regime change. There is a war in Syria which was also orchestrated to effect regime change. There is hunger and starvation in Zimbabwe also imposed to effect regime change. There is an open war in Palestine. There is a hidden war in Swaziland. In Western Africa, where ebola has just broken out, causing serious disturbances to learning and teaching, the US is sending soldiers when Cuba is sending doctors to deal with the challenge of ebola in Western Africa.
There is no proper schooling under these circumstances. Children of the working class are caught in the cross fire. No teaching and no learning under such conditions. We know better. South Africans know better. SADTU knows better.
This merely indicates that imperial and capitalist forces will stop at nothing to impose their own system and therefore continue to exploit the poor and the working class as a whole. If the imperial forces can choose which President to install and which one to remove, why then do we think South Africa is an exception? There is no wonder therefore that a new wave of frontal attacks against the working class has reared its ugly head especially against Public Sector Unions.
What we are worried about though is who the beneficiaries of these wars in the Continent are? Are the poorest of the poor benefitting from these? Are the have‐nots reaping the benefits? Is the working class in these countries benefitting? Or are they all victims who lose their lives while the rich and affluent sent their kids to safer havens.
I am raising these international trends briefly in order to revive our age long tradition of solidarity work amongst the working class organizations across the globe.
The system of Capitalism has not brought solutions to human suffering. Many of the world s people are still living in misery today.
According to Joe R. Feagin, University of Florida, “all over the world the pro-capitalist policies of many National Governments and International Organizations have fostered a substantial transfer of wealth from the world s poor and working classes to the world s rich and affluent social classes.”
Like I said at the beginning comrades, this Congress is not taking place during the best of times. South Africa with its policies is not an exception. It is within the global network of states that are afraid of upsetting the apple cart.
Locally, here, the income and wealth disparities are continuing to create an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. Banks are collapsing in the hands of executives who are proudly earning in excess of what they need. These are heartless individuals who will go and play golf overseas when the Bank is closing and people are losing jobs.
The working class is continually exploited and marginalized.
If you were to take stock you will see which hospitals are for the poor and which ones are for the rich. You will see which schools are for the poor and which ones are for the rich. You will see which mode of public transport is for the poor and which one is for the rich. You will see which suburb/ households are for the poor and which ones are for the rich. Clinics, play grounds, roads, water, the air you breathe, you can tell which diseases are for the rich and which ones are for the poor. This is South Africa today. Twenty years after the democratic breakthrough in 1994.
It is not a joke, as a Leader of the Brazilian Workers Party observed that the third world war has long started. This is a kind of war which is tearing down practically all the Third World. Instead of soldiers dying, there are children dying of hunger, diseases, bombs and malnutrition, instead of millions wounded there are millions unemployed, instead of the destruction of bridges, there is a tearing down of factories, public hospitals, public schools and the entire economies. Public service is being degraded.
The President of World Bank, Jim Yong Kim had this to say “While we in the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live. And they [the poor] have shown they are willing to take action” He went further to say ” We must not remain voluntarily blind to the impact of economic choices on the poor and vulnerable, inequalities hurt everyone.”
The World Bank President ,in his own admission, is saying in essence that when Governments, South African Government included, are voluntarily ignoring the poor there is nothing that will stop the communities to march daily for the delivery of services, teachers demanding better working conditions, learners demanding resources to enable them to study better. Mine workers will continue fighting for their rights even if it means death. Amicar Cabral said “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children”.
An anonymous Somali Elder of Baidoa stated succinctly and insightfully in September 1995 that that human beings need five things.
First is water. It is the first thing needed to live. Without it, a plant, an animal or a baby dies. Second, is food. Without enough of it, life is miserable and short. Third, once water and food are won, is health – otherwise the human being becomes sick. Fourth is education, once a human being has water, food and health, he / she needs to learn to open new horizons and unlock new possibilities. And there is a fifth – peace and order. Without these, none of the four basic needs can be sustained.
Comrades the Public sector is under attack like any other sector of the working class. The first frontal attack is from those of our friends who still hold the discredited notion that the Public Sector is bloated at the bottom. To them you do not need any more teachers, not any more nurses, not any more doctors in Public Hospitals, not any more cleaners in Hospitals but ironically they need Chief Director, Director, Deputy Director, Assistant Director, etc. The apostles of this fallacy are saying that the State must do more with less. This cannot happen in Education because every class, every stream must have a teacher or teachers. I am sure it cannot happen in hospitals too. Not even in police stations. This fallacy must be continuously challenged for what it is. It is part of that pro- ‐capitalist basket of policies which caused untold sorrows to mankind the world over.
As a Union of revolutionary Professionals we cannot allow our Education system being collapsed by the proponents of these wrong policies. Comrades, studies have shown that our education sector has an aging workforce. There are few young educators getting into the field. We are running a risk as a country to experience teacher scarcity in any field. We should be investing in teacher training and recruiting as many teachers as possible. We need change and it must happen now. This congress must craft a strategy to deal with the teacher supply and demand in this country.
The most devastating attack come from the broader neo liberals: SADTU, like the rest of the Alliance Structures particularly the ANC and SACP, is being demonized daily. The Union is most of the times portrayed in a negative light by the media. The campaign is just not about SADTU, it is more than that. The Media is in the business of trying to pull down the liberation movement, piece by piece, comrade after comrade, one leader after the other. The DA on the other hand is on the offensive against SADTU on a daily basis, all because we relate with the ANC. We will continue to mobilize for the ANC victory in the forthcoming 2016 local government elections.
When that strategy does not yield immediate fruits for them, they, the Neo liberals have managed to baptize some individuals within the Public Sector to speak on their behalf, attacking one leader after the other, peddling perceptions of corruption against leaders in the media and finally passing judgments on individuals on the media without following due processes. This we call trial by media to sway public opinion on their hidden agenda (regime change in South Africa). I do not think we fought for a society which bedevils individual citizens, charging, trying them publicly and judging them on the public platform without any due regard to their basic freedoms. Society must be built on the foundations of law and equal rights. These apostles are in fact saying you are assumed guilty until proven innocent by the courts of law. What a travesty of justice. This is an abortion of fair trial. Our belief is that any person is assumed innocent until proven guilty by the courts of law.
We need to expose these vultures who are already writing an obituary of the Union and the Alliance. We have to fight to preserve our right to determine our own destiny. We cannot afford to have the media dictating the pace and direction of our own revolution. The other strategy they are using is to sow division amongst the leaders. They have already started this campaign. We have to declare that UNITY to us is sacrosanct. It is cast in stone.
We defeated Apartheid through sheer power of Unity. And we shall defeat these vultures once again.
We have to agree that we are at a cross roads. But we are not alone; we are together with the rest of the South African society. The key question: What is to be done? This question is the same question that was asked by Lenin in the nineteen hundred .
To answer this question let me remind comrades delegates that when SADTU was formed in 1990 the objective was crystal clear: To form a revolutionary trade Union capable of advancing the struggle of the working class as whole.
To do this SADTU through COSATU has to form Alliances in order to respond adequately to the needs of the working class and their families and to protect the poor and the most vulnerable. Our revolutionary task is to advance and deepen the revolutionary agenda amongst the workers and the working class in general.
As teachers, workers of the mind, with the mother of all professions being teaching, the next generations are under our care and guidance. They, too, have revolutionary tasks, and they must be taught to perform their revolutionary tasks, by us, on behalf and in the name of the liberation movement, and the people of our country, indeed South Africa as whole.
Trade unions are essentially and basically not political parties but revolutionary trade unions are not ignorant of their mandate to advance revolutionary agenda as dictated by both objective and subjective factors within their countries. In this regard SADTU is not an exception. SADTU can only achieve the revolutionary mandate only if it is UNITED and DISCIPLINED.
Dr Blade Nzimande, the General Secretary of the SACP, has once said: “We are not going to drive a second, more radical phase of our transition unless the working class is strong and united. Therefore it is important that we focus on rebuilding the unity of COSATU, but a COSATU that remains an integral part of the Congress movement.”
The unity of the trade union movement led by COSATU, and the unity of COSATU with the ANC and with the SACP, is crucial to workers. It is crucial to the Radical Second Phase, upon which in turn depends “the economic emancipation of our people.” A divided COSATU will not and shall not be capable of fighting for a prosperous South Africa.
Organizational discipline puts some special demands on any member. Organizations all over have a life of their own, Independent of the individual needs and preferences of individual members. Sometimes organizations take decisions which as an individual I may not be comfortable with. But once all views are debated at an open forum and decisions are taken after such debates, the decisions will remain binding to all members of the Union regardless of whether some individuals here and there had had their own individual preferences. So SADTU is not an exception. SADTU therefore demands maximum discipline in order to drive the transformation agenda and fight the battles against the Neo Liberal onslaught. You are members of SADTU, not members of other members.
Comrades the struggle for economic emancipation is not over. We never said so and the ANC never said so.
It is not a new discovery by those who claim to be Economic Freedom fighters. The real economic freedom fighters are here. The real movers and shakers are here. The real and true liberators are in this hall today. You are here representing the hundreds and thousands of foot soldiers of this revolution. SADTU is here. 260 000 members. That s what you delegates represent.
Let us remain steadfast in pursuit of the total emancipation of our communities. Let us defend the Alliance. The ANC is us and we must defend it with all our strength. Yes, with the last atom of our strength, we must defend it, in every village and every ward. We will indeed defend it everywhere in the country.
SADTU has made huge strides in Education over the last decade. I am sure the Secretariat Report will be more elaborate on this. Among others: the 2015/2016 salary negotiations, challenges regarding bargaining and PPN, implementation of resolutions taken in 2010, an update of Government Employee Housing Scheme (GEHS) and Government Employment Medical Scheme (GEMS); learner pregnancy; challenges regarding ECD and AET practitioners; the compulsory teaching of history in our schools and the promotion of indigenous languages; LTSM and infrastructure challenges.
There is however some critical issues which we need to challenge conference on.
In May 2002 an Article appeared in the Journal called Children First. The Article was titled Learner Safety: We know enough to act .
Comrades the safety of our Schools cannot and should not be ignored. There are good reasons why there is a need to look at this issue more deeply. Learning and teaching cannot take place in an environment of turbulence. The violence in some parts of the Western Cape places both Educators and learners at a huge risk of injury and death. Our Government should step the gear. The Education Departments must place School safety at the top of their agenda.
In Gauteng schools have become a battle grounds for religious cults. Learners are killing learners. In short kids are killing kids. No society or community can tolerate these scary happenings. Our Schools are not well equipped to address these matters. Our Educators are not equipped to deal adequately with these challenges. Our own Comrades in the policing sector have always been crying of shortages of equipments, vehicles, enough personnel to do deal with the escalating violence.
In all Provinces learners are used as cannon fodders. If there is a community problem around matters of service delivery learners are the ones to suffer. They are taken out of schools. Teachers remain helpless. Communities are simply channeling the energy and the braveness of youth to wrong direction.
As a country we need to insulate learners against this violence.
Media has been covering adequately every incident where learners are subjected to sexual abuse at school by their educators. We call upon Departments to speedily resolve all matters of sexual abuse against learners because a perception will persist that teachers in general are not good. This is not true. We have men and women who respect their profession and who do everything for the learners. SADTU has never supported teachers who violate the rights of learners. SADTU is firm in its policies to protect the learners. SADTU members do not and should not abuse learners.
Indeed the Government knows a lot to act. We call on Education Departments to have security in Schools. We call on Government to resource the policing sector for them to respond adequately to challenges of safety in schools. We call upon Department to resource teachers to recognize and deal with early signs of abuse.
Ours is a mission to create a safe learning and teaching environment.
Comrades, we shall be guilty of omission if we cannot express our view on the ever growing perception of corruption in the public sector and also in the Unions. Let me state upfront that SADTU does not support corruption. SADTU will continue to support all efforts to deal with corruption be it in the Public Sector or in the Private sector. Where ever it happens, corruption is wrong and very costly to the Union and the liberation movement as a whole. It cannot be justified. If the cause of factionalism is the tenders, if the cause of Municipal collapse is the tenders, if the cause of high turnover is tenders, if the cause of the cannibalization of comrades is tenders, then there are sufficient reasons to find alternative ways to deal with these tenders. We will support all efforts to deal with this perception.
Do not sell posts in our name!
Comrades as we are nearing the end of our input we want to report that in recent weeks a so-called “posts for cash” scandal allegedly by SADTU has been making news. We do not have a fundamental problem with the media coverage around this matter but are concerned about how it has elevated this into a SADTU matter opportunistically just to sell as many newspaper copies as possible. Recently, one of the leading newspapers came out with the headline “How SADTU sells posts and runs a mafia.”
We want to make it clear to the membership that there has never been a resolution or policy position taken at any level of the organisation sanctioning the selling of posts. The Union for that matter has never received a single cent from the proceeds of this “posts for cash” scheme. Let us emphasize that SADTU does not have any posts to offer and it logically can never be in a position to sell them as it has been reported in the media. It is worth mentioning that it is humanely impossible to micro- manage what every one of the 260 000 members of the Union do in our name.
We find it regrettable therefore that possibly some members have used the name of the Union to carry out what is blatantly a criminal act and which we want to distance ourselves from. We want to send a strong message to these individuals that commit such acts not to do so in our name. The Union must continue to play its designated monitoring role when it comes to appointments of principals and teachers without exerting any undue pressure for decisions to go either way.
We want to call upon all those who might have information about the “posts for cash” to approach the Department of Basic Education so that we can once and for all root out corruption in the education system.
The Union has further approached the South African Council for Educators (SACE) as the custodian of the teaching profession and the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) which is responsible for conditions of employment and the promotion of labour peace to conduct investigations on the allegations jointly or independently to establish facts about the selling of posts scam. We do this because teaching is a noble profession and cannot afford to be associated with corruption, worse the exploitation of the teachers who are looking for a job.
SADTU is committed to a corruption-free Department of Education and will cooperate with the Department and the two institutions in rooting out corrupt activities.
The Union being taken to Court
It is indeed regrettable that some of our structures flout our Constitution by taking the Union to court as against 13.3.4 (e), that only the NEC can institute or defend legal proceedings by or against the Union or individual members in relation to their employment or in furtherance of any of the aims and objects of the Union provided that it is not inconsistent with any matter specifically provided for in the Constitution. This Congress must take a decision in dealing with this challenge. It can t be correct that the Union is taken to court without the internal processes being exhausted.
Brief Report Back on the Disciplinary Process Against the Former President Ntola
Let us quote Cde Ntola on what he said as part of his opening remarks at our National Congress in 2010. Check our website for his some of his speeches.
“1. Respect for individual participation in discussions, programmes and activities of the organization;
2. Respect for different and divergent views and opinions expressed within the structures of the organization;
3. Respect of freedom of expression of ongoing policy matter within the structures of the organization;
4. Respect of human dignity in advancing freedom of expression within the organization.
5. Once a decision has been taken by the collective; once a position has been reached by the centre; all other differences expire.”
Comrades on the very same tone we want to briefly talk about the disciplinary processes against the former President Ntola.
We would firstly like to indicate that the disciplinary proceedings against Ntola were conducted in line with the constitution of the Union as amended in October 2010 (“the constitution”). The Union s constitution contains guidelines for the functioning of disciplinary committees. It provides that any member, site steward or office bearer of the Union may have disciplinary steps taken against him/her if they act in a manner detrimental to the Union or, in contravention of its policies.
This clarifies the confusion that has been deliberately created in the media by some people including Ntola himself that the decision to discipline him was a political ploy. We wish to reiterate that no one is immune or exempted from the disciplinary process of the union.
The same policies were applied when Ntola was the chairperson of the National Disciplinary Committee involved in cases of the former President Madisha, former chairperson of Limpopo and many other members and leaders.
We are stunned by the double standards that he and others want us to apply when it comes to his case. They clearly want us to adopt the animal farm approach where he is seen to be more equal than others.
Section 7,8 of our constitution reads as follows: ” All members, including Office Bearers, shall be subject to the Sadtu Code of Discipline, which shall be determined by the NEC from time to time, and also to any disciplinary processes or sanction defined in such code”.
As the union we have afforded Ntola an ample opportunity in the spirit of fair procedure to present his side of the story to the investigation and subsequent disciplinary hearing. Despite all the attempts he refused to cooperate with the investigations and failed to attend the disciplinary hearing.
As you are all aware that Ntola was suspended and subsequently charged for misconduct. The Union brought ten (10) charges against him.
Ntola was the President of the Union and as such the highest official. It was expected of him to respect the processes of the Union and he seemed to have no regard whatsoever for those processes. Accordingly the disciplinary inquiry proceeded in his absence.
Let us emphasize that he was afforded three opportunities to put his side of the story but rather preferred not to, we see this as a clear sign of undermining the Union s constitution which he was supposed to be the custodian thereof.
The chairperson of the disciplinary hearing found him guilty of misconduct and recommended that he be dismissed.
Based on the ruling of the Chairperson of the disciplinary hearing, the NEC resolved to accept the report of the chairperson that Ntola be dismissed.
The NEC further resolved that Ntola s membership be suspended for a period of ten (10) years.
The detailed charges have been provided through a “Special Report” that has been delivered to all our sites and forms part of the “Resource Pack” to this Congress.
As we close, we must heed the call made by OR Tambo when he closed the Morogoro Conference in 1969: “Wage a relentless war against dirupters and defend the ANC against provocateurs and enemy agents. Defend the revolution against enemy propaganda, whatever form it takes. Be vigilant comrades. The enemy is vigilant. Beware of the wedge-driver, the man who creeps from ear to ear, carrying a bag full of wedges, driving them in between you and the next man, between a group and another, a man who goes round creating splits and divisions. Beware of the wedge-driver, comrades. Watch his poisonous tongue”.
In conclusion, Comrades let me remind you that this is a National Congress. The cardinal responsibility is to engage on Union matters, debate them and finally take resolutions that will take this Union forward. Let us not allow anyone to divide the Union nor allow the Union issues to divide us as the revolutionaries. We owe it to the leaders who came before us, we owe it to members past and present and we owe it to those who are still in the womb of the future. In fact we owe it to the NATION.
Let me remind you again, comrades that ours is a Movement, it is not a tendency, it is not a fashion. It is a revolutionary movement endowed with a revolutionary responsibility.
IN UNITY WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE ONLY OUR CHAINS.
We wish you everything of the best in taking this Union forward.
Happy 24th anniversary SADTU.