07 February 2024

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) has learned with shock about the Provincial Department of Education’s intention to terminate the employment of 27 employees working as Deputy Directors, Assistant Directors, Administration Clerks in the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) of which 18 are based at the Provincial Education Department’s Head Office and district offices.

In August 2023 the Head of Department, Mr Ngcobo approved that all these employees be made permanent. Despite this, six months later, the employees were served with letters of termination instead of conversion/absorption letters. The Union condemns this unfair labour practice. No union can fold its arms when employees are antagonised for no apparent reason.

The public must not forget that about nine months ago there was an outcry in almost all schools that are beneficiaries of the (NSNP) as learners went for weeks without food because of the failure of the department to manage the appointment of providers. This crisis drew national attention as it had a potential of robbing learners of their basic human right to education. In our view the termination of the NSNP employees has a direct impact on the management and administration of the programme. These employees are responsible for among others, the following:

•  Delivery of meals to schools

•  Stakeholder engagement and management of EPWP

•  Development and compliance monitoring of the menu

•   Processing and payment of claims from providers

With the rising levels of unemployment and poverty in the country and in KZN to be specific, no one can afford to witness another day where learners, majority of whom solely depend on the school meal, will not be fed. There is no teacher, SGB member or parent who wishes to see the sad faces like in April 2023. In April 2023, some teachers had to dig deep in their pockets to feed the learners. The public needs to understand that any mismanagement and maladministration of the NSNP has a direct impact on teachers’ work.

As the union, we had hoped that the department has learnt a lesson from the 2023 scandal. However, the recklessness displayed through sanctioning of terminations of employees who on daily basis work to ensure that the NSNP is fittingly managed and administered makes us realise that the mismanagement of the NSNP is deliberate and calculated to harm education and our children. It is now common practice that instead of properly communicating with staff and engaging their trade unions, actions of this nature are preceded by messages which are circulated on social media indicating that all the NSNP employees are to be terminated. It is also clear that these employees are targeted, and we believe, because they insist on rules being followed.

It is also disappointing to witness such glaring disregard of the law and rights of workers by the Head of Department. His conduct and that of his Deputy Director General Adv. Masuku raises questions over their capabilities and understanding of the Labour Relations Act, existing collective agreements and policies regarding appointments, conversions, and terminations.

SADTU therefore implores the MEC of Education in the province to probe this mismanagement. The MEC has given the impression that she is sympathetic to the plight of women and part of what is understood to be her goal is to ensure that more women get appointed and promoted in the department. SADTU believes that the MEC will frown to hear that 70% of the employees that the

department plans to terminate are women. It is well known that women are at the receiving end of poverty, corruption and all the social ills facing the country. This is the right time for the MEC to practically display her commitment to the struggle of women as she has portrayed herself as an ambassador for women, something that we are all proud of. The Union calls for her intervention to stop this ill treatment of employees in her department.

SADTU therefore calls on the Department of Education (Head of Department) to withdraw these terminations with immediate effect. In the meantime, we have written to the HOD asking for an urgent meeting to discuss this matter.

For more information contact:

SADTU KZN Provincial Secretary, Nomarashiya Caluza 0826117027SADTU KZN Deputy Provincial Secretary, Jabulani Nxumalo 0826117028