Sadtu calls for head of North West education minister
Thabo Sematle, deputy secretary of the union in North West, told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday their campaign to remove Mabe from her position in the department includes plans to organise protests, marches and pickets.
“We’re not making empty threats. We want to show clear determination that we will not relent. This is the promise we’re putting on the floor,” Sematle said.
Sadtu announced in a media briefing in Mahikeng earlier in the day its provincial executive committee has resolved to campaign for Mabe’s sacking. “We as Sadtu in the North West have lost confidence in the political leadership of Mabe, and thus we are calling for her axing by the premier [Thandi Modise] and the ANC,” said the union’s media statement.
At a national level, the union is also campaigning for the dismissal of Angie Motshekga, the basic education minister, and her director general Bobby Soobrayan. The union maintains the two are undermining collective bargaining, following their failure to implement a chamber agreement that would increase salaries of teachers who marked matric papers by 100%.
Sematle told the M&G their call is borne out of frustration with Mabe over her “lack of cooperation”, “sheer disregard for unions” and “blatant disregard for legal processes”, among other things.
Sadtu’s statement lists a number of grievances the union has against Mabe. The first one is that she is “intransigent, indolent and [has an] uncouth behaviour”. Here Sadtu refers to what it alleges is Mabe’s eight months snubbing the union. Sadtu said it wanted to resolve long-standing issues with the department.
Another burning issue Sadtu is up in arms over is that “many” temporary teachers in the province have not been paid since the year started, said the union. “… Those who have been paid were paid very late after officials responsible for these payments were pursued repeatedly.”
“Many of the schools were told to instruct such temporary educators to stop reporting for work or else pay such teachers from the school coffers …” the union claimed. “Schools, in the process, are battling with subjects and classes without educators due to this disjuncture caused by indecisiveness.”
The department was moving in a snail’s pace to resolve shortcomings schools raised in January, Sadtu claimed. “Many schools await top-up textbooks and stationary.”
Furthermore, there are numerous schools battling shortages of desks, tables and chairs, said the union. “Most schools” in the Taung region, it said, were without teachers for maths, maths literacy and physical science.
The department does not seem capable to sort these issues, Sematle said. “When a fish rots, it does so from the head, hence as Sadtu, we are convinced the removal of the [provincial education minister] will alleviate the problems that have besieged the department of education in the province.”
Brian Setswambung, an acting spokesperson for Mabe, told the M&G the union’s call comes as a complete surprise. “Our reaction is the Sadtu statement is unfortunate because it comes at a time that there has been engagements between the union and the [provincial minister],” said Setswambung.
He said the recent meeting between the parties was held earlier this month. The meeting, which was also attended by Premier Thandi Modise and Cosatu leaders, concluded that there would be further communication to resolve the long-standing issues, according to Setswambung.
“But today we see this statement. The space for engagement has not been allowed. If [Mabe] was intransigent she would not have gone to the meeting,” he added.
“Some issues cannot be resolved after one meeting. There was still an opportunity to continue engagement. The department’s door remains open for engagement with the union or any other stakeholder.”
But talks in that meeting collapsed due to Mabe’s “arrogance”, claimed the union.
Sadtu is now lobbying its tripartite alliance comrades to support its drive to have Mabe removed. “The current situation is that we’re engaging Cosatu, the ANC and the South African Communist Party. They must be ready anytime when we call them to the street,” said Sematle.
“It’s clear that we’re not going anywhere with this [provincial minister],” Sematle told the M&G.