Presidency statement is not fooling anyone
Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance
22 March 2012
I have noted the statements released by the Presidency this afternoon responding to my Human Rights Day speech in the Eastern Cape yesterday. The first was recalled because it contained various spelling, grammar and syntax errors. I will respond to the second.
The President’s 2012 State of the Nation Address did not single out SADTU but, in the context of a SADTU strike paralysing education in the Eastern Cape, thanked “teachers unions” for their contribution to improving education. He even looked sheepish as he said it because he knew he should have been condemning SADTU but chose not to for expedient reasons. Not a single person listening to the President failed to get the message. That is why Parliament erupted in a chorus of condemnation when he made his statement. That is why almost every opposition leader condemned the President in their responses to the State of the Nation.
SADTU’s Eastern Cape go-slow wilfully sacrificed education outcomes on the altar of material gain, in a province where matric pass rates are already the lowest in the country. It was worthy of unanimous condemnation, and indeed it received it from everyone – except President Zuma. For the President to thank teachers unions, of which SADTU is the biggest and most closely connected to the Tripartite Alliance, the day after that lengthy go-slow was finally ended, was appalling.
The President’s statement today again fails to address SADTU’s disgraceful conduct in our school system, again showing his expedient blindness to the education crisis in South Africa.
That is why, in Port Elizabeth yesterday, I reiterated our call for education to be declared an essential service with teachers’ right to strike limited to after school hours. We’ve got to break the stranglehold that SADTU has on our schools. The President, instead of attacking me for exposing his own expediency, should face that fact – and then do something about it.