Sipho Masombuka, Quinton Mtyala, Poppy Louw and Zandile Mbabela
A SCHOOL shutdown is looming should President Jacob Zuma not fire Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga within 21 days as demanded yesterday by thousands of SA Democratic Teachers’ Unionaffiliated teachers.
Backed by union federation Cosatu, the teachers gave Zuma the ultimatum as they took to the streets in protests.
About 6000 teachers who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria hurled insults at Motshekga as they passed the Basic Education Department’s offices on a nearby street.
There was also a major protest in Cape Town and smaller marches in various towns and cities.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, who led the Pretoria protest, said: “[We cannot have] a minister and a directorgeneral [Bobby Soobrayan] who undermine collective bargaining.”
Asked what would happen should Zuma ignore the demands, Dlamini said: “The plan is clear. What you see today started with work-to-rule activities by the teachers; it is a march today. You will hear of strikes. And may I remind our government, we signed a three-year agreement so that we can focus on issues of transformation of the public service.
”The minister is delaying us from focusing on those issues – let her be warned and come back to the table about these serious issues.”
At the Cape Town protest, Cosatu Western Cape general secretary Tony Ehrenreich said: “If the government does not listen to teachers today, we want to assure them that all of the members in Cosatu, all 260000 members in the Western Cape alone, will come and join you to make sure we fix the problems in education.”
Sadtu accuses Motshekga of having plunged the department into chaos, pointing to the Limpopo textbook debacle and the Eastern Cape education crisis.
It said its call for the removal of the minister and the director-general was necessary to defend collective bargaining and to promote quality education.
Teachers have been on a go-slow since the start of the second term. The department has threatened to act against them for taking part in an “illegal” strike and to implement the no work, no pay principle.
But Dlamini warned Motshekga not to take any action. “There is fire already. Don’t pour oil on the fire.”
Dlamini, who was accompanied by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, said children could not be held to ransom by two individuals.
Nelson Mandela Bay Cosatu chairman Mazotsho Dukwe said affiliated unions would be more than happy to join Sadtu should they get a directive to do so.
“If Cosatu joins in, there will be a bigger voice and [government] would be forced to listen.”
There was very little disruption in the Bay yesterday as only a handful of Sadtu members abandoned classes to picket outside the city’s district education offices.
About 80 teachers, some bearing placards, gathered outside the Ethel Valentine building in Sidwell, chanting and calling for Motshekga and her department to fulfil their end of numerous bargains.
Sadtu Port Elizabeth cluster secretary Mzwanele Blouw said relations between the Education Department and the union were at an irreparable stage and the pickets were only the beginning of a wave of action that would eventually lead to a complete shutdown of schools.
Annette Lovemore, DA spokesman on basic education, said she had complained to the Human Rights Commission about Cosatu and Sadtu.
“I have also tabled a motion that parliament debate appropriate measures to prevent union activity from interfering with our children’s constitutional right to receive basic education,” Lovemore said.
COPE Youth Movement spokesman Bongani Mahlangu slammed the protest as “selfish”. But he reiterated the party’s call for Motshekga to resign for failing to ensure quality education for children.