Magope Maphila (foreground), deputy president of the SA Democratic Teachers' Union attends their national general council at a Kempton Park hotel in eastern Johannesburg on Friday, 25 October 2013. The decision to suspend Sadtu president Thobile Ntola was not made lightly, Maphila said on Friday. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Durban - Allegations that its members sold principals’ posts were racially motivated propaganda, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) in KwaZulu-Natal says.

In a scathing attack on the media on Wednesday, Sadtu’s KZN leader, Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, charged that the allegations were part of a plot to smear the union’s name.

Speaking publicly for the first time on the jobs-for-cash scandal, he announced that Sadtu would embark on mass action if the Department of Education did not address its list of grievances in the next two weeks.

Mathonsi denied that any of Sadtu’s 60 000 members in the province were guilty of selling school posts or unduly influencing the appointment of principals.

He said he could not understand how one went about selling a teaching post, particularly when Sadtu’s role – like that of other unions – was merely that of observer on school appointment committees.

Mathonsi said Sadtu would co-operate with the office of the public protector, which was investigating an allegation that the union solicited a R100 000 bribe to secure a post for a candidate.

This was for a position in the department as district director. The department’s probe has cleared Sadtu of this allegation.

On Wednesday, Mathonsi accused City Press, which has reported on a countrywide jobs-for-cash scandal, of portraying Sadtu as “dirty” and the “black education system as corrupt” because it was desperate for sales.

The newspaper’s allegations led to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s promptly setting up a task team to investigate them.

The ministerial task team includes members of the Department of Justice, the Public Service Commission, and independent experts in human resources, education, and law.

Mathonsi said the union’s members “are simply the best and deserve promotions”.

Because it was the majority union in the province, most of the teachers who were promoted to the position of principal would be Sadtu members, he said.

“Sadtu invests a lot of money, time and energy in preparing its members to be ready for promotion processes.”

Turning to the KZN Department of Education, Mathonsi claimed that it was “in a state of collapse” and said it had failed its employees on numerous fronts.

An example was that more than 500 teachers in the Ulundi area had not been paid since December, he said.

Department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi responded that this matter would be investigated urgently.

“One deserving educator who is not paid is worrying to us. Worse so when it is 500.”

The Mercury