NEHAWU announces national strike, wants higher education DG Gwebinkundla Qonde fired

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PRETORIA, February 11 – The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) on Monday announced a national strike set to affect “all the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and community education and training (CET) colleges” across South Africa.

“As NEHAWU, we hold a strong view that at the centre of our problems is the leadership and presence of the current Director General [Gwebinkundla Qonde]. We believe that any qualitative change that the department shall undertake must begin with the departure of Mr Qonde as he has no best interest in his heart for the department and the students it seeks to serve,” Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said while speaking to journalists in Pretoria.

“He has treated workers with sheer disdain and dismally failed to guide the department to implement sound human resource policies. Most of the challenges that are being faced by workers at public colleges are administrative by nature. This can be attributed to the failure by the Director General to appoint competent HR managers.”

Saphetha said the “national strike” will commence at workplaces on Thursday morning.

“It will run indefinitely until all our demands are met by the department of higher education and training (DHET),” said Saphetha.

Nehawu said it organises workers from 50 TVET colleges spread across 264 campuses and CET colleges spread across more than 3,000 community learning centres.

“Our members are ready to make their voices heard and send a strong message to the department that they shall no longer tolerate being exploited and subjected to horrible working conditions. Our members have been patient since 2015 and now their patience has run out, hence they have decided to withdraw their labour power in a quest to twist the arm of the employer to accede to our genuine and reasonable demands,” said Saphetha.

Nehawu said Qonde has failed to address their grievances.

“In August 2018, the Director General issued a circular to instruct college principals to facilitate appointment of council members in terms of section 10.4B of the CET Act. This is irregular because principals are accountable to the college council as the governance structure. It is ridiculous for the principals to appoint people they should account to. This opens up space for the process to be abused by the principals by appointing their cronies, so they evade being accountable,” said Saphetha.

In terms of the CET Act, Nehawu insists, it should be the minister of higher and tertiary education who facilitates the appointment of councils.

“This further proves that the DG is not fit to be at the helm of the department as he has proven beyond reasonable doubt on numerous occasions that he does not care about the proper running of the department nor does he care about the future of young people who are yearning for education.”

Saphetha said his organization has engaged previous DHET ministers.

“We have engaged Blade Nzimande on the issues we are raising, remember he was at the helm at the time, followed by Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, and the current Minister Naledi Pandor. You will recall that in November 2017 we had a march here in Pretoria where we submitted a memorandum specifically relating to the TVETs. We met with her [Pandor], and she said she was going to come back to us on the issues that we were raising. She demanded some evidence and to date we have not heard anything,” said Saphetha.

“It’s quite clear we are not happy with her approach and that’s why we are taking the matter back to her. I must make the point that if she is not responding positively, on this strike, it will be a very difficult thing to support her to be a minister again. We don’t need such ministers. We want ministers who are prepared to listen, and to resolve issues.” (ANA)