Johannesburg branch under fire after threat to go on strike

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Learners in schools in and around Johannesburg could find themselves without teachers when the schools reopen tomorrow.

Just as the schools are about to open, the South African Democratic Teachers Union's Gauteng branch is threatening a massive strike in Johannesburg.

The union has accused the education department of reinstating its suspended chief director of districts, Thami Mali.

Mali was suspended on December 7 after consistent allegations from various organisations were levelled against him. They include misconduct and corruption.

But provincial education spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said yesterday that "the suspension still stands".

The region has 7200 members and operates in major places such as Soweto, Johannesburg, Lenasia and Roodepoort - with more than 700 primary and secondary schools.

Thousands of pupils could be left stranded if the threat becomes a reality.

Sadtu Gauteng regional secretary Ronald Nyathi said that "reliable sources" had informed the union that Mali would return to work either this week or next week.

"If Mali is reinstated, we will make it very difficult for the department to run smoothly. Mali is corrupt. He is a bad influence on the department and he has demoralised us."

Nyathi said that Gauteng education MEC Angie Motshekga made a progressive decision when she suspended Mali.

"We will support the MEC until the end and she must not disappoint us. If it calls on us to disrupt the whole province, we will do that," said Nyathi.

Mali told Sowetan that he has not heard from the department.

"I have not been contacted but I will return to work if I am asked to. It makes no sense to me that Sadtu does not want me to return to work.

"I have not done anything wrong," said Mali.

When asked if this was a personal issue, he said: "It could be.

"There were directors who were suspended in Soweto and I delivered the letters to them. Some had pleaded guilty to fraud and corruption charges.

"That could be the reason Sadtu does not want me. Nevertheless, I will not stop acting against corruption," Mali said.

Lesufi said: "There must have been a communication breakdown. We do not know anything about Mali's reinstatement.

Sadtu national spokesman Jon Lewis said: "This is a provincial issue."

Sadtu provincial chairman Sello Tshabalala said: "The decision does not come from the provincial office. There is a lot of history between the office and Mali. They have levelled many complaints against him.

"However, we should have been consulted about the problems so that we could intervene."

Mahlomola Kekana, chairman of the district education and training council, said they accepted the reinstatement. "It is in the best interest of the department to reinstate him. The department is poorer without him," he said.