The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) said on Thursday it is "disgusted" by the South African Democratic Teachers Union's (Sadtu) threats to strike over pay increases and the news that Bobby Soobrayan, director general of the department of basic education, was cleared of charges against him.
A disciplinary hearing held in December 2013 and chaired by Judge Willem van der Merwe cleared Soobrayan of allegations that he signed an agreement without authorisation and misused funds from the Education Labour Relations Council.
On Tuesday, Sadtu said: "The return of Bobby to the helm of the department is nothing short of a declaration of war and we will not lie down and play dead under these circumstances."
It threatened to strike over pay increases, which it also blamed Soobrayan for failing to adequately address the issue.
Meanwhile, Cosas said it welcomed Van Der Merwe's decision "with open hands" and said it hoped that the decision would bring stability to the department. Cosas secretary general Tshiamo Tsotetsi said Sadtu was trying to disguise its displeasure with Soobrayan's acquittal as a genuine working class struggle.
Tsotetsi said Sadtu had ample time to question Van Der Merwe during Soobrayan's disciplinary hearing, but it had not done so. Sadtu was therefore threatening to interrupt schooling for "nonsense", he said.
'Dismay and disgust'
"Cosas is hereby expressing its dismay and disgust at the sudden threat by the teachers' union to strike in opposition of the outcome of the disciplinary case.
"In a press statement released by Sadtu on February 18, the union forwards genuine matters of the workers in as far as the question of the pay progression for the teachers is concerned, we hereby as Cosas reiterate our biasness to the struggle of the working class and support the call to the department to urgently address this matter.
"But what we will never tolerate is the intention by the teachers' union to push for the teachers to stay out of class and neglect their responsibilities of educating the learners of this country, only as a way in which they want to demonstrate their discontent with the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings against the director general," said Tsotetsi.
He said learners should not be "compromised" for "narrow and selfish interests". Cosas threatened a counter-march, should teachers strike.
"[Cosas] asserts that anybody who neglects their teaching responsibilities and marched will be regarded as reckless and inconsiderate and we will therefore march against them entering our schools.
"The learners remain the major stakeholders in the department of education and they are ready to take responsibility of their future, including calling upon the department of basic education to immediately fire anybody who intends on neglecting learners and marching for nonsense."