Teachers on warpath in E Cape as strike talk escalates

A strike by 53 000 Eastern Cape teachers became increasingly likely as the South African Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu) stepped up its war talk this week and set Friday as its deadline for the national department of basic education to accept its demands.

“If [the day] dawns with nothing at hand, we shall be left with no alternative but to go to war,” Sadtu said in a memorandum of grievances it handed to the Eastern Cape premier’s office in Bhisho on Friday.

“Waiting any longer will be suicidal to our own existence. We have waited and have been fooled for too long,” said the memorandum, which Sadtu sent to the Mail & Guardian this week.

Sadtu is demanding the removal of Modidima Mannya, the head of the Eastern Cape’s crisis-ridden education department, and the reinstatement of more than 4 000 temporary teachers whose contracts were terminated last year.

The union could not guarantee matric exams would not be disrupted if “angry teachers” did not get the answers they wanted from the provincial department.

Sadtu’s provincial secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni estimated between 15 000 and 20 000 Sadtu members marched to the premier’s office on Friday.

The union has given Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga Eastern Cape premier until Friday this week to respond “with urgency”, Ndongeni told the M&G.

Tangible action wanted
“We don’t want them to say ‘okay, let’s meet to discuss a plan’. We want to see tangible action. An example would be for them to say ‘suspended teachers must be back in their schools on this date’,” he said.

National department spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi said on Tuesday the department would respond to the memorandum. “We will consult with the ministerial task team about what we should do about Sadtu’s demands,” he said.

In March this year the national department invoked Section 100 of the Constitution and put the provincial education department under administration.

Sadtu’s 11-page memorandum refers to Section 100, saying “we plead for an urgent intervention of the [national] Minister of [Basic] Education and the Premier of the Eastern Cape province for the provision of leadership and assistance”.

Other grievances the memorandum details include the late delivery of books and stationery, underspending despite the high prevalence of mud schools, low staff morale and the lack of collective decision-making.

The union wants Motshekga, to resuscitate the implementation of Section 100, suspend Mannya and apply to the high court for an order to set aside all contracts entered into by the provincial department while it has been under administration.

It also demands the premier “stop the victimisation of our members”, reverse any decision that was made about the number of teachers’ posts it would fund next year and reinstate all dismissed temporary teachers.

Mahlubandile Qwase, provincial spokesperson in the premier’s office, was not available for comment.

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Victoria John
Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011.

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