16 November 2023
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) rejects Julius Malema’s unprincipled and amoral attacks on teachers with the contempt they deserve. Malema in a bizarre meltdown on Twitter went on an unhinged tangent on the hard-won constitutional rights of freedom of association and political expression on teachers.
Mr. Malema in typical tin pot dictator mode demands teachers be banned from employment by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) during the 2024 elections. Malema believes since most teachers are members of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) and SADTU is an Affiliate of COSATU, an ally of the African National Congress, that they cannot be trusted by the IEC to play any role in elections.
Whilst Malema’s rantings may be law in his political party, they hold no weight in a constitutional democracy. The Constitution guarantees all South Africans freedom of association and expression without qualification. The IEC is free to employ any South Africans who meet their requirements, irrespective of whether they belong to a teachers’ or any other trade union.
Proposing to ban teachers from playing any role in assisting the IEC is a slippery slope. Will other workers be banned next simply because their union is supporting one or another party? Will this then be extended to voters who have decided to vote for some party on election day? Ultimately the overwhelming majority of South Africans have political views and express them in different ways as the Constitution entitles them to.
The challenge to ensure elections are run in a manner that is free and fair, and accepted as such by voters, is for the IEC to have strong and transparent systems in place. The IEC has these systems and has run elections with distinction for nearly thirty years. Teachers apply for employment with the IEC as individuals and are held accountable by the IEC for their performance as individuals. SADTU does not apply for them. Despite Malema’s huffing and puffing, neither he nor his political party has ever produced any evidence or laid a charge with the police, or the Electoral Court of a single teacher having swayed an election in favour of the ANC!
In contrast to Malema’s ill-considered temper tantrums, the ANC has not only repeatedly won free and fair elections with resounding majorities, but it also has lost and conceded elections with grace and without qualm. Perhaps it would be helpful for Malema to spend less time tweeting and more time familiarising himself with the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
Issued by COSATU
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