THE Presidency said on Thursday it was “shocked and disappointed” at comments made by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on teachers in the Eastern Cape.
Ms Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), had misled the public by saying President Jacob Zuma had praised the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) even though it was in the middle of a strike in the Eastern Cape, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
“We have no idea why Premier Zille has singled out Sadtu and left out other teachers’ unions,” Mr Maharaj said. “Teachers are an important stakeholder in the education of children.”
Ms Zille told a DA-led Human Rights Day march in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday that a situation where teachers’ rights to strike trumped the rights of pupils to learn compromised their ability to reach their full potential.
The march came after a five-week go-slow at the beginning of school year led by teachers aligned to Sadtu. This followed the Department of Education’s drive to redeploy teachers.
The union was also angered by the axing of thousands of temporary teachers. In protest, teachers at numerous schools throughout Nelson Mandela Bay embarked on the go-slow that saw teaching taking place for only two days a week.
Many schools across the country were being held hostage, Ms Zille said, criticising Sadtu for “slamming the door in the faces of our children”.
The government was “standing idly” watching it happen, the premier said, adding that she had witnessed “political expediency in its worst form” when Mr Zuma “flippantly” thanked Sadtu in his state of the nation address.
She said the president had sold out the potential and future prospects of every South African pupil for a few extra votes in Mangaung, where the African National Congress will elect new leaders in December.
Mr Maharaj said Ms Zille had misrepresented Mr Zuma’s comments, and that the president had been referring to all teachers’ unions in his state of the nation speech.
“Ms Zille misled the public by saying President Zuma had praised Sadtu, even though they were in the middle of striking in the Eastern Cape,” he said. “That is simply not true. The president did not mention Sadtu at all in the 2012 state of the nation speech.”
In his address, delivered early last month, Mr Zuma said: “Our call to teachers to be in school, in class, on time, teaching for at least seven hours a day, remains pivotal to success. We thank the teacher unions for supporting this campaign.”
He said the Eastern Cape government and Sadtu had signed an agreement on February 8 to “normalise” the situation in the province and “to promote quality learning and teaching”.
On Wednesday, Sadtu provincial secretary Mncekeleli Ndongeni said he was shocked by the day’s protest action, adding that the march should have been against the Department of Education for firing teachers. “They should not be fighting with us. We want to put teachers in classrooms. “
SAPA with GARETH WILSON
Article source: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=168058