SAPTU Newsletter – November/December 2016

Fees must fall and decolonisation effect on university staff

The South African Parastatal and Tertiary Institutions Union (SAPTU) is seriously concerned at the impact and consequences of the fees must fall campaign and call for decolonisation on universities and their staff.

SAPTU, as a recognised union in the tertiary sector, represents thousands of highly qualified and professional staff on various levels of activity ranging from administration to academics.

SAPTU has a clear mandate to protect the working conditions of its members at universities. This remains a crucial issue as the fees must fall initiative will inevitably impact on SAPTU’s members’ job security, income security and simply on every level of day-to- day activities as universities will inevitably try to save on new permanent appointments (even promotions) and outsourcing critical and essential activities. The pressure on academic staff will only expand.

SAPTU is further concerned at the calls for Decolonisation and Africanisation of universities.

Nowhere is the meaning of Decolonisation’ debated, scientifically analysed and its benefits proven.

SAPTU asks the following questions: Will the Decolonised university discard all research and scholarly work executed over the past 2000 years and therefore also discard and disregard history?

Does it imply directly and indirectly that the field of knowledge used at the decolonised university is different from that of a colonialised university? Is the approach to existing scientific thinking and scholarly methodologies in the decolonised university completely different?

A significant fear is that so-called Africanisation and Decoloniasation may not be able to elevate SA universities to any higher level.

Standards are measured annually by international grading agencies. Every significant university focuses on its standards in terms of curricula content, research outputs and scientific standing firstly within a national framework but eventually in the global knowledge industry. In the international world of science and technology and equally the arts, some competition is always evident in terms of ratings, academic and scholarly performance, achievements, availability of funding through international and national funding sources, research results and publications. Universities have become a global network containing and accommodating the best academic and scientific minds that are interactive on many levels and every university has become part of the international networking system to share and take part in discoveries and inventions around the globe.

SAPTU therefore also supports the drive for the highest academic standards as presented by its members, determining and defining such standards based on existing academic and scientific content of learning material.

Until such time as ‘Decolonisation’ and ‘Africanisation’ have a solid scientific base guaranteeing that South African universities remain equal partners with the international knowledge industry, SAPTU will not support this initiative.

SAPTU can also not support any drive to replace South African lecturers with foreign lecturers who may represent a new type of academic colonisation.

Interim Presidential Report in higher education/universities fee crisis

SAPTU takes note of the release of the above interim report of the commission appointed by the President on the feasibility of free higher education and training.

It is SAPTU’s contention that the report lacks direction on the burning question of determining the source of funding for higher education. Some of the methods it will investigate include taxation, the establishment of a co-operative education bank or the provision of higher education through internet cafes. It is of utmost importance that Government must provide more funding for higher education and more support for NSFAS. If no fee increases will continue in future, nationwide fee increase protests at universities across the country will flare up again. SAPTU hopes that when the Commission submits its final report by June next year it would provide more direction to solve the current crises in the higher education/university fee increases.

16 days of activism for no violence against women and children.

“I say no! to violence against women and children. I have been directly affected by sexual abuse when my 16 year old daughter was raped six months ago by two class mates. I strongly believe each and every abuse case must be reported in order to eliminate it. I have ZERO tolerance for abusers.” Noluthando Maqungu of Legal Aid SA.

Violence against women takes many forms – physical, sexual, economic, psychological and emotional – but they all represent a violation of human rights and dignity with lasting effects and consequences both for women themselves and for the communities they live in.

Many women in South Africa are not aware of how to access legal assistance, and despite several campaigns affirming women’s rights, most still have limited knowledge about their constitutional rights. It is due to this lack of knowledge that many fall victim to crime and abuse, and sadly many cannot stand up and fight against these inhumane activities.

The Port Elizabeth Justice Centre is calling on employees to collect comfort packs and partner with Thuthuzela Care Centre from Dora Nginza for rape survivors.  Let us all embark and  participate in raising awareness of the negative impact that violence and abuse have on women and children as well as create HIV/AIDS awareness.

FEDUSA Congress

A sometimes humourous but very honest report by Daniel Weideman, Chairperson of SAPTU’s Legal Aid SA branch and member of SAPTU’s management committee The Federation of Unions of South Africa's (to which SAPTU is affiliated) held its sixth congress since its inception in 1997 on 17 and 18 November 2016.  Part of each SAPTU member’s monthly subscription is paid over to the federation his or her union is affiliated to, and I wanted to ascertain whether this is money well spent, and what return we get for this "investment".  I was surprised at what I found.

A bit of background will suffice.  The trade union scene is dominated by three federations:  COSATU, the biggie, part of the tripartite alliance, NACTUC;  and holding the middle ground: FEDUSA.  As is tradition, the other two were in attendance in the open sessions, represented by their presidents, who both contributed with messages of support.

The theme was Decent Work and Decent Life for All.  Three panel discussions, in which SAPTU participated, also took place to explore the role of enterprises, the public and private sectors in achieving this lofty ideal.  The contributions were incisive and thoughtful, nothing at all like what the general perception would have one to believe.

There were plenty of external contributions.  Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant spoke about the threats to issues such as global stagnation, Brexit, instability in the Middle East and economic growth in China held for jobs in South Africa.  Surprisingly, she pleaded to the unions to aggressively expand their membership, as collective bargaining was an essential element to the country's future economic success.

Mcebisi Humbert Jonas, Deputy Minister of Finance, also addressed the congress.  He was of the opinion that the social bargaining of 1994 had run its course, and that a new bargain was necessary to overcome unemployment, low business confidence, exclusivity, corruption and discontent.  This theme was embroidered upon by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who argued the need for what he described as a New Compact.  He saw the present challenging circumstances as a unique opportunity to change, a chance for great minds to get together to charter a better future.  All social partners needed to work together, according to the Deputy President.  A common theme of the politicians' speeches was the effusive praise for the constructive contribution FEDUSA delivered in all spheres, not least their contribution to Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council) and presently being embroiled in warding off the threatening ratings agency downgrade.

There was also a strong international presence, especially from the Brics countries.  All expressed their appreciation for FEDUSA's  contribution in international labour matters and in the International Labour Organization.  Business leaders and entrepreneurs were also in attendance, participating in the panel discussions.

For their part, the Federation's speakers naturally trumpeted the important role it was playing in national affairs.  Amongst other things, we apparently have them to thank for having the 27th December public holiday. The Federation's fiercely protected independence was emphasized.

Strong views on corruption, social responsibility and dialogue were expressed.  The outgoing president, Koos Bezuidenhout, gave an overview of the past five years' activity since the last congress, and emphasized the need to communicate within and without to enable the unions to flourish.  The new president, Godfrey Selematsela, closed the congress with a mercifully short speech, reminding us that despite all the aforegoing, our primary responsibility was to look after our members in the light of new challenges.

So, what came out of attending the congress?  Firstly, a renewed vigour to tackle the real job on hand: representing you.  It was uplifting to rub shoulders with other unionists, to see and feel that we are not isolated, that we fit into a bigger scheme of things, that there is strength in solidarity and collectivism.  Coupled with the enhanced role unions are poised to play, exciting times lay ahead.

Secondly, experiencing the extent to which SAPTU punches above its weight, despite it being a small union.  For example, our own General Secretary's immense contribution at Nedlac regarding a countrywide minimum wage was acknowledged by the congress.  By the time you read this, a major announcement in this regard should have been made.  Furthermore, we are also represented on the Management Committee by our Acting President.

Thirdly, we are not isolated.  We have a channel to use to be heard where and when it matters.  We have direct access, due to the above, to the movers and shakers in the country.  The traditional landscape is changing and we are in the unique position of potentially being part of the team changing it.

Fourthly, we do seem to be getting bang for our subscription contribution buck.  However, when all is said and done, SAPTU will not allow its focus to shift from the here and now.  We are as fiercely independent as the Federation claims to be and twice as indomitable.  You, the members, are our primary responsibility, and we will always be vigilant to ensure that the lofty pursuits of the Federation align with our own purposes and requirements.

Festive greetings

SAPTU wishes all its members an enjoyable and restive festive season; if you’re driving, please take care on the roads.

SAPTU head office will be closed from 9 December 2016 and will reopen on 9 January 2017 when we’ll be back invigorated to fight our members’ causes.