Higher education DG not fit to lead and must be fired, says Nehawu

11 February 2019 - 15:42 By ZINGISA MVUMVU
Nehawu says workers at TVET colleges are exploited and subjected to horrible working conditions, and have not been listened to since 2015.
Nehawu says workers at TVET colleges are exploited and subjected to horrible working conditions, and have not been listened to since 2015.
Image: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Mohau Mofokeng

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has called for the removal "as soon as possible" of higher education and training director-general (DG) Felix Qonde, whom they described as "not fit" to lead.

Nehawu was briefing the media on Monday about looming strike action across the country's technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and community education and training (CET) colleges - starting from Thursday and lasting indefinitely until their demands are met.

The union laid the blame for problems facing the department squarely at the door of Qonde. 

Nehawu said workers in TVET colleges were "exploited and subjected to horrible working conditions" and had not been listened to since 2015.

"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," read a statement from the union.

"He has treated workers with sheer disdain and dismally failed to guide the department to implement sound human resource policies."

The union accused Qonde of issuing a circular instructing college principals to facilitate the appointment of council members, a move they believe was irregular because principals are accountable to the college council as the governing 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.

"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."

Nehawu, among other demands, wanted:

  • Its members' salaries and other benefits, stagnant since 2015, to be addressed through proper implementation of performance bonuses and grade progression.
  • No deduction of pension benefits for CET college employees, which they argued affected approximately 11,000 lecturers who were inherited after the migration process in 2015.
  • All staff in the TVET colleges employed to support ministerial-approved programmes to be public servants paid through the state payroll Persal.
  • The employer to pay unpaid benefits to college staff members, appointed in 2008 and paid by college payroll, who did not receive benefits until 2013.
  • An end to the victimisation and purging of Nehawu shop stewards and members in TVET colleges.
  • Reorganisation of the examination unit, which includes printing of all outstanding certificates and diplomas for college graduates.

The union said its national strike action was billed to take place in 264 TVET college campuses and CET colleges spread across community learning centres.