Zine George and Zandile Mbabela
COSATU general secretary Zwelenzima Vavi blamed the absence yesterday of top education officials at an SA Democratic Teachers’ Union indaba on "2012 fever”.
He was referring to the ANC’s elective conference in Manguang at the end of the year.
He also warned that the ANC’s belief it would rule "until Jesus comes” was a pipe dream if factions continued to define the ANC.
Vavi said he was disappointed by the failure of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet and Education MEC Mandla Makupula to attend the conference, which drew more than 500 delegates.
"I must express my disappointment that I do not see the premier, the MEC for education or even the education minister here. I do not see the leaders of the alliance in this province.
"I’m told they were all invited to take part, but regrettably they seem to be elsewhere doing other very important matters,” Vavi said.
Sadtu had invited several senior government officials, including Motshekga, Kiviet, Makupula and Education Department head Modidima Mannya to address the event held in East London from yesterday. Not one of them pitched up.
Last month, Vavi led a Cosatu delegation that intervened in an impasse between Sadtu and the Eastern Cape Education Department.
An agreement was signed on February 7, with the government committing to employing 4000 temporary teachers. As a result, Sadtu ended a go-slow which had seriously disrupted schooling for nearly five weeks.
"I suspect that the reasons for the [officials’] absence today has more to do with this agreement,” Vavi said.
"How do you explain that you have not yet returned all these temporary teachers, even though we had said they would be returned within 48 hours.”
Speaking about the ANC elective conference, Vavi said he could not rule out the fact that divisions within the party were a result of the elective conference.
Sadtu president Thobile Ntola and Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim, both from the Eastern Cape, are associated with the anti-Zuma campaign.
Vavi, meanwhile, has in the past criticised Zuma loyalist SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande.
"I suspect something else about the absence of these comrades: the 2012 fever,” Vavi said.
"It is in the interest of somebody that Sadtu must be presented in public as a spoiler so that the fiscal campaign conducted by some that this is nothing but a counter-revolutionary force can begin to make sense.
"So when Sadtu does something absolutely critical to take forward the aspirations, not only of our kids and our members but of our country as a whole, then you must sit in a corner in pain that Sadtu will receive some positive publicity,” he said.
"So you can’t afford to be seen among them because you would then be contradicting your campaign to present them badly.
"I’m told some people even called some important meetings to coincide with this conference so that the directors who are supposed to take forward this [indaba’s] campaign are not here.”
Makupula confirmed yesterday he had turned down an invitation to attend the indaba, but Mannya denied ever having received an invitation.
"I saw the advertisements for the event, but I wasn’t invited so I did not want to invade the gathering,” he said.
"I don’t think it’s weird that I wasn’t invited because this is a union function.”
Provincial Education Department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said Makupula had "had every intention of attending the summit”.
"When the invitation arrived, however, he realised it clashed with a prior commitment and submitted, in writing, his apologies for his non-attendance,” he said.
Motshekga’s department said she was out of the country.
Among the stakeholders at the indaba was Rhodes vice-chancellor Professor Saleem Badat, former Gauteng education MEC Professor Mary Metcalfe and political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni.
The indaba is set to focus on:
- Improving education management and curriculum delivery;
- Identifying and addressing challenges that impede the functioning of the schooling system;
- Ways to maximise available resources, including human and material capital to the benefit of pupils; and
- Ways of contributing towards the performance of pupils using the available resources.