“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul, than the way in which it treats its children.” —Nelson Mandela
Two Provincial Executive members, President Harvey Bischof and Vice-President Cindy Dubué, attended the National General Council (NGC) of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), in Johannesburg from October 4–7. SADTU has been in existence for only 27 years, and in that short time has grown from a body of 30,000 teachers to more than 260,000 educational workers. SADTU currently represents nearly 70 per cent of all teachers in South Africa. The NGC is the union’s highest decision making body between conventions and is made up of hundreds of national, provincial and regional leaders.
On October 6, 1990, SADTU became the first national unitary, non-racial and non-sexist union to have been formed in South Africa. Its leadership and members have steadfastly pursued and linked its organizational objectives, as well as its education programs, to the broader politics of the liberation struggle and the development of a democratic state. Prior to liberation, teachers and education workers took the lead in their resistance to Apartheid and its inferior education for Black South Africans. Following the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, the union turned its attention to building one unified education system for all rather than the 13 systems that existed under Apartheid.
This visit allowed our Federation to examine the progress that has been made since liberation, and witness the excitement and dynamism of this most political union. Given its history, SADTU members play a crucial role within the governing African National Congress (ANC) and, according to their President, their role in the upcoming national elections is to “help the ANC save itself from self-destruction”. There are accusations of corruption within the ruling party, and the current President is set to step down in December. SADTU members welcomed Cyril Ramaphosa, currently the Deputy President and SADTU’s chosen candidate to replace President Zuma, and invited him to open their new facility, called SADTU Village, during the NGC.
SADTU has had a long-standing relationship with our Federation, which has included completing the Common Threads curriculum resource entitled “From Canada to South Africa: Combatting HIV/AIDS Together.” The partnership has also included visits by SADTU leaders and staff to AMPA and to our annual Leadership training, while members of our executive have attended a number of SADTU Congress meetings over the years. Our two unions have also shared resources and expertise regarding site steward and workplace representative training.
President Harvey Bischof was invited to address the gathering during a special dinner organized for the international guests in attendance. He stressed the strong history of solidarity our unions have shared, congratulated SADTU on its 27th birthday, and expressed our desire to continue our partnership in the future.