by Nomalanga Mkhize
Songezo Zibi wrote this article on Sadtu’s incomprehensible about turn on Modidima Mannya’s firing and Angie Motshekga’s role in this http://www.fm.co.za/opinion/editorial/2013/03/14/a-litmus-test
His article was quite cutting; I felt it merited a response. In fact, it merits a whole national discussion.
As a rural child, I was brought up to believe that adults, especially elders who hold some leadership or social rank, are hardly ever wrong.
As we grew up, we were then taught how to politely point out to adults or elders when they had erred without explicitly humiliating them. I found it hilarious as a child when an adult who had been caught out would cheekily tell us – “umuntu omdala akaqambi amanga, ‘uyaphosisa'”.
This is a cornerstone of traditionalist societies – maintaining respect and decorum between the young and the senior.
This was back in the past of my childhood in the rural idylls of Mpumalanga and Pietermaritzburg where it felt like the universe of norms was relatively intact. Everybody knew their place and responsibility.
But I recall an incident which punctures my rose-tinted memories.
This is when a relative of mine who was a highly respected teacher practically dragged himself home, through the streets of the township, dirt streaks on his half unbuttoned white shirt, stomach exposed, zip and belt half undone, sopping drunk, incoherent. Cousins were dispatched to help him along. It was a painful sight for me, I was barely 5.
There are moments when adults can behave, in the full glare of the public, in ways that are so immature and so childish that one is just left feeling downright perplexed.
A week ago when I read the latest press statement by the executive of the South African Democratic Teachers Union I had such a feeling of complete disbelief.
As Zibi points out, the press statement, criticises Minister Motshekga for making public utterances that hinted at non-procedural dismissal of then Eastern Cape Education HOD Modidima Mannya.
Hawu. Hayibo. Kanti? Imani. Wait. A. Minute. No. Let’s wait two minutes, and reflect.
This is the SADTU that crippled Eastern Cape education for three weeks in 2012 to have Mannya unprocedurally fired.
On the ground, communities were scrambling to organise tutorials for panicked children. I was one of those people who got lots of phone calls from parents “Nomalanga, khawuncede, Nomalanga, abantwana, please”.
In my town of Grahamstown, SADTU officials went from meeting to meeting to explain to angry parents about why Mannya must go. At one meeting, tribalism even emerged as one union official said “He is not even one of us, he is from another ethnic group outside this province”.
Hawu. Ngavele ngaphelelwa amazwi. I was lost for words.
But let’s accept that was the ignorance of one person and not the culture of SADTU nationally. The parents at the meeting dismissed this tribalist sentiment immediately.
Those three weeks of the go-slow were some of the toughest three weeks for Eastern Cape education.
As citizen’s we got together and issued this letter to the local newspapers – in our anger and concern for the children – https://imfundo.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/letter.jpg
We were so angry we could not even bring ourselves to write the letter in English.
We needed to be clearly and properly understood.
Fast forward to March 2013. It is as if SADTU never had a role in the Mannya debacle. It is as if a debilitating go-slow never happened.
Do they take us for fools?
Perhaps, they do!
Or perhaps it may be worse, they are indifferent to pain they cause because they have become so stuck in their bad habits, so unable to reflect on their collective behaviour as seniors and elders.
Just like my drunk relative, rolling down the streets of the township, dignity all gone, family shame exposed.