‘Break Sadtu’s power’

In damn­ing find­ings, fi­nal re­port re­veals ‘jobs-for-cash’ is en­demic and claims the union is hold­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem hostage

CityPress - - Front Page - SIPHO MASONDO sipho.masondo@city­press.co.za

Teach­ers’ union Sadtu’s mem­ber­ship of the tri­par­tite al­liance gives it “enor­mous power and in­flu­ence” over the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. So says the long-awaited fi­nal re­port by renowned aca­demic and Umalusi head Pro­fes­sor John Volmink into the jobs-for­cash scan­dal.

De­scrib­ing this sit­u­a­tion as “dan­ger­ous and in­ap­pro­pri­ate”, the re­port has found that this is hold­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem hostage to po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses.

It also makes a slew of rec­om­men­da­tions about how the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem can be freed from Sadtu’s grip, in­clud­ing a ban on prin­ci­pals and ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials be­ing of­fice bear­ers in po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

The re­port con­tains a first-time ad­mis­sion by Sadtu that the sale of teach­ers’ and prin­ci­pals’ jobs for cash, sex and “other favours” is “wide­spread and un­der­re­ported”.

The re­port was due to be re­leased last week, but Sadtu is putting stum­bling blocks in the way of its dis­sem­i­na­tion.

City Press has ob­tained a fi­nalised copy of the re­port, in which this ad­mis­sion is made by Sadtu’s un­named “le­gal ad­viser”, as well as its gen­eral sec­re­tary, Mug­wena Maluleke, and deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary Nkosana Dolopi.

The three, the re­port found, also ad­mit­ted that “the un­der­re­port­ing can be at­trib­uted to the fact that the seller and the buyer of the post op­er­ate in high se­crecy and, in some in­stances, with in­tim­i­da­tion”.

The re­port con­tains an­other shock ad­mis­sion by Gaut­eng Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi that his de­part­ment was un­der the “con­trol” of Sadtu, and the buy­ing and sell­ing of teach­ing and of­fice jobs in his prov­ince was “en­demic”.

Volmink’s team, ap­pointed by Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga two years ago to in­ves­ti­gate the scan­dal fol­low­ing a City Press ex­posé, was damn­ing about Sadtu’s hold on power, say­ing that it was a recipe for cor­rup­tion.

It con­demned the prac­tice of cadre de­ploy­ment, ar­gu­ing that through it, the union was able to ram­ify its po­si­tion and in­flu­ence, as well as re­ward cho­sen in­di­vid­u­als by lo­cat­ing them in of­fices and schools to the ben­e­fit of the re­cip­i­ent and the ad­van­tage of the union.

“Its pres­ence is in­dica­tive of enor­mous power and in­flu­ence by a union that seeks to en­trench it­self re­peat­edly and in­ex­orably,” the re­port found. “As a form of un­due in­flu­ence or cor­rup­tion, it opens doors for the use of un­ortho­dox and il­le­gal means to gain ad­van­tage. The buy­ing and sell­ing of po­si­tions is one such means. “The log­i­cal con­clu­sion … is that un­due in­flu­ence, a po­lite name for cor­rup­tion, ap­pears to be en­demic to greater and lesser de­grees in the en­tire ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem, in of­fices, in schools, unions and ev­ery­where else. “Weak au­thor­i­ties, ag­gres­sive unions, com­pli­ant prin­ci­pals and teach­ers ea­ger to ben­e­fit from union mem­ber­ship and ad­vance­ment are a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors that de­feat the achieve­ment of qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion by at­tack­ing the val­ues of pro­fes­sion­al­ism.” With more than 260 000 mem­bers, Sadtu is labour fed­er­a­tion Cosatu’s largest and most in­flu­en­tial union. It has been a groom­ing ground for ANC lead­ers who have gone on to be­come min­is­ters, MECs and se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cials. Many of its mem­bers are ac­tive ANC branch lead­ers, and the union pro­vides foot sol­diers in elec­tion cam­paigns. Re­fer­ring to Sadtu’s po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions, the re­port also found that, as a mem­ber of Cosatu and the tri­par­tite al­liance, Sadtu has achieved ac­cess through the ANC and the SA Com­mu­nist Party to po­si­tions in Par­lia­ment and Cabi­net. “The com­mit­ment of a teacher union to one sin­gle po­lit­i­cal party is dan­ger­ous and in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” the re­port found. “This means that those ed­u­ca­tors who join the union are bound to that party. And the for­tunes of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem be­come de­pen­dent on the for­tunes of a po­lit­i­cal process. “While the party is in power, the union has a kind of po­lit­i­cal sanc­tity. To chal­lenge the union is to chal­lenge the party. It is not dif­fi­cult to see how that can lead to cor­rupt forms of in­flu­ence.”

SADTU FIGHTS RE­PORT

Sadtu is fight­ing the re­lease of the fi­nal re­port, which it says is bi­ased and flawed. The union threat­ened last week to take the de­part­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion to court if it was not given a chance to make fur­ther rep­re­sen­ta­tions to in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

The fi­nal re­port also re­veals that the union’s bosses told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that they had been com­bat­ing “dif­fer­ent forms of mal­prac­tice since 2006”.

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The re­port’s re­lease has been de­layed since Fe­bru­ary.

Maluleke told City Press yes­ter­day that the union had al­ways main­tained it was aware that the prac­tice of sell­ing jobs for cash and sex was wide­spread.

“But what we want South Africans to know is that it is not done by Sadtu.

“We have never, and would never, sanc­tion such cor­rup­tion. Those who are do­ing it are crim­i­nals, and they are abus­ing the good name of our union.”

The union, he said, would make rep­re­sen­ta­tions to Volmink’s team to­mor­row.

The scan­dal was ex­posed by City Press two years ago in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that re­vealed prin­ci­pals’ po­si­tions were be­ing sold for amounts ex­ceed­ing R30 000.

Teach­ers’ posts were also be­ing sold for live­stock and cash amounts of as lit­tle as R6 000.

Le­sufi told the min­is­te­rial task team that “the ma­jor union is in charge of ed­u­ca­tion”.

Boy Ngob­eni, the for­mer head of the Gaut­eng ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment, whose con­tract ex­pired last year, told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Sadtu was the “ele­phant in the room” that no­body talks about, and that the high de­gree of in­flu­ence by unions needed to be ad­dressed. Shortly af­ter City Press’ ini­tial ex­posé, Le­sufi ap­pointed law firm Nchu­pet­sang At­tor­neys to in­ves­ti­gate if teach­ing jobs were sold in Gaut­eng. The com­pany found that “the al­le­ga­tions of posts be­ing sold for cash are true”. It also found that those in­volved op­er­ated in rack­ets in­clud­ing school gov­ern­ing body mem­bers, union of­fi­cials and prin­ci­pals. Nchu­pet­sang rec­om­mended dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against im­pli­cated of­fi­cials, but this went nowhere be­cause wit­nesses re­fused to sign writ­ten state­ments, and the process was aban­doned.

Volmink’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors en­coun­tered the same prob­lems. The re­port found that a “per­va­sive cul­ture of fear” and “con­cerns about safety” neg­a­tively in­flu­enced the co­op­er­a­tion of po­ten­tial wit­nesses, many of whom were re­luc­tant or un­will­ing to de­pose af­fi­davits or work with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

As a re­sult, fewer than five cases could be re­ferred to the po­lice for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion and charges.

The re­port re­veals that Gaut­eng is not alone. Volmink’s team found that Sadtu had cap­tured five other prov­inces and was in “de facto” con­trol.

“The task team has found that in six, and pos­si­bly more, of the nine prov­inces, Sadtu is in de facto charge of the man­age­ment, ad­min­is­tra­tion and pri­or­i­ties of ed­u­ca­tion there.

“It should not be a union’s func­tion to be both ref­eree and player,” the re­port found.

The other five prov­inces are: KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Lim­popo, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape.

In North West, the re­port found that more than 85% of se­nior staff in the de­part­ment were de­ployed by Sadtu af­ter serv­ing as union of­fice bear­ers.

“Here is an ex­am­ple of Sadtu func­tion­ing as a con­veyor belt for ed­u­ca­tors to be re­warded with well paid govern­ment jobs in ad­min­is­tra­tion and else­where, in­clud­ing the Cabi­net,” the re­port found, re­fer­ring to for­mer Sadtu gen­eral sec­re­tary Thu­las Nx­esi, who is the min­is­ter of pub­lic works.

“Ac­cord­ing to the [North West] head of de­part­ment [Dr Itume­leng Mo­lale], Sadtu de­ter­mines well ahead of time which can­di­dates for ap­point­ment at of­fice and school level are pre­ferred, and uses its in­flu­ence in many ways to in­crease its grip on ed­u­ca­tional pro­cesses in this prov­ince.

“Mo­lale said that ev­ery three years, when Sadtu holds its elec­tions, those who lose their po­si­tions are re­de­ployed to se­nior po­si­tions in the de­part­ment, ir­re­spec­tive of whether they are qual­i­fied or not, or whether there is a va­cancy or not.”

To stop the sell­ing of prin­ci­pals’ posts, both Gaut­eng and North West have since banned school gov­ern­ing bod­ies, as well as cir­cuit and dis­trict of­fices, from em­ploy­ing prin­ci­pals, mak­ing those ap­point­ments at their head of­fices.

In Mpumalanga, pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment head Mahlasedi Mh­la­bane told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that “in this prov­ince, Sadtu holds marches to have of­fi­cials re­moved from of­fice”.

In Lim­popo, se­nior man­agers told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that they were aware of a list of the names of six Sadtu mem­bers whom the union de­manded the de­part­ment ap­point to teach­ing and of­fice-based The team has now rec­om­mended sweep­ing changes to how teach­ers are ap­pointed. These in­clude the ex­clu­sion of school gov­ern­ing bod­ies from in­ter­view pan­els hir­ing mid-ca­reer teach­ers and all other se­nior po­si­tions. It has also rec­om­mended that prospec­tive prin­ci­pals take ap­ti­tude tests be­fore sit­ting for in­ter­views, and that highly ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers should be part of the pan­els in­ter­view­ing them. Other rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude: That no ju­nior teacher be pro­moted to be­come a prin­ci­pal, which is cur­rently hap­pen­ing; That prin­ci­pals and of­fice-based of­fi­cials be banned from oc­cu­py­ing lead­er­ship po­si­tions in unions and from be­ing of­fice bear­ers of po­lit­i­cal par­ties;

A ban on cadre de­ploy­ment in the ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment;

That strict con­di­tions be set for union ob­servers dur­ing in­ter­views; and

That the teach­ers’ pro­fes­sional reg­u­la­tion body, the SA Coun­cil of Ed­u­ca­tors, be “recon­cep­tu­alised” and freed from union dom­i­na­tion.

Panyaza Le­sufi

Mug­wena Maluleke

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