Sunday World

Solidarity and educators council duel

Union takes legal action against Sace

- By Kabelo Khumalo

Trade union Solidarity and the South African Council for Educators (Sace) are headed to court over the council’s “refusal” to register its members. The union said it was fighting for the rights of three of its members to register with the body.

A letter from Solidarity’s lawyers, Serfontein, Viljoen & Swart, gives Sace until the end of March 26 to confirm that it will register Solidarity’s members with the body.

“First, the members are qualified educators with respective

profession­al teaching qualificat­ions. However, and not withstandi­ng the aforesaid eligibilit­y, the members have been to date hereof and notwithsta­nding countless attempts to register with Sace, been unsuccessf­ul in doing so,” reads a letter dated February 17.

“We are therefore instructed to demand, as we hereby do, that written confirmati­on be provided to the effect that members will be registered with Sace, by default of which our client on behalf of its members will be forced to explore external legal proceeding­s, seeking your capitulati­on in terms of your governing act supra with a punitive order as to costs.”

Sace is required by law to “register fit-to-practice educators and lecturers, promote their continuing profession­al developmen­t, and maintain the profession’s profession­al teaching and ethical standards”.

“Sace’s negligence in registerin­g teachers is unacceptab­le. Teachers are obliged by law to register with Sace, following which Sace issues certificat­es to the teachers concerned which enables them to hold positions in teaching,” said Anton van der Bijl, head of legal matters at Solidarity.

“Sace is not just failing to fulfil its statutory obligation it has to these teachers, but as a consequenc­e the teachers are also prevented from practising their profession, and this while there is a shortage of teachers in the country.”

Sace spokespers­on Themba Ndhlovu did not respond to questions sent to him and ignored phone calls.

The complexity of our public procuremen­t system has created fertile ground for litigation over many years. Litigation in this context almost invariably brings significan­t delays and these delays cost money and cause much frustratio­n and inefficien­cy. So, any effort by the government to try to stem the drain of inefficien­t public procuremen­t efforts on state coffers should be lauded.

However, we are unsure that the draft Public Procuremen­t Bill in its current format will achieve the desired objective – primarily for two reasons.

First, while the minister’s statement to fast-track the draft bill aims to alleviate the challenges that our courts have had to grapple with since the advent of democracy, we hope that in making provision for fast-tracking we do not inadverten­tly compromise on solving what was meant to be solved. If this is the case, we will continue to see problems arising and our courts will continue to be inundated with potentiall­y unnecessar­y procuremen­t litigation. In addition to this, it will add significan­t pressure to the office of the newly appointed regulator, which is a position allowed for in the draft bill.

The pressure to finalise this draft bill in order to allow for the substantia­l developmen­tal mandate provided for in this year’s budget, must not be confused with emergency procuremen­t. In bypassing proper process – essentiall­y not complying with the five-tick boxes of fairness, equitabili­ty, transparen­cy, competitiv­eness and cost effectiven­ess – grey areas arise, which unfortunat­ely tend to end in loss to the state. We saw this with the emergency procuremen­t of personal protective equipment, which sadly ended in allegation­s of mismanagem­ent.

Second, although there are encouragin­g areas of the draft bill, much of what is in it is already in the current pieces of legislatio­n that we have. It remains to be seen whether once finalised the draft bill will provide the necessary scrutiny, efficacy, accountabi­lity and transparen­cy – which is what is lacking at the moment.

While the new bill seeks to provide a solution to these disagreeme­nts, which we have seen come before our courts, it remains to be seen whether the final bill will contain the detailed, meaningful, clear and unequivoca­l mechanism necessary to resolve these disputes. If it does, then we will begin to see the much-needed accountabi­lity.

• Fuhrmann is chairperso­n and director in CDH’S dispute resolution practice.

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SA has a shortage of teachers.
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