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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 15, No. 23, 30 June 2016

In this Issue:


Red Alert

Workers are "not free at e"

The whole media industry in South Africa needs a decisive self-introspection, not only the SABC around which almost all now coalesce in action against wrongdoing.  

By Alex Mashilo

The unlawfully appointed SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng's personality cult is surely one of the factors at play in the ongoing administrative and governance decay at the SABC. Indeed a personality cult emerges among others when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods to create an idealised, heroic, and at times worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery, praise and, based on being in charge threats to others as a means of manufacturing consent. This includes, internally inside organisations such as the SABC as it has now clearly turned out, the use of disciplinary processes to stifle engagement, suppress freedom of expression and other important rights.

Progressive policies such as the 90 percent local content are attributed to the role of the personality cult and not the organisation. Yet it is the same personality cult that was probably behind the black-out of the South African Communist Party's (SACP's) march to the SABC in 2012 and other mass actions demanding more time and space for progressive local content and an end to corruption and the corporate penetration that has now graduated to the level of corporate capture. The black-out and belittling of these progressive efforts were not dissimilar to the recent action taken at the SABC that has led to the suspension of three journalists last week and the hauling of three more this week to processes of disciplinary hearings.

The Guptas-owned ANN7 and The New Age are the worst in such actions and other maltreatment of workers, as declared by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

At the SABC, the main problem lies in the weaknesses embedded in the structures and processes that allowed for the emergence of the personality cult that is at the centre of the ongoing administrative and governance decay. But the SABC as a public institution cannot be understood only from within. There are public structures that should play an oversight role and hold the SABC accountable. The public, too, should frankly engage in a self-introspection because the buck should stop with the public if all other structures fail. 

But the whole media industry in South Africa needs to engage in a decisive self-introspection despite now almost all coalescing against the rot at the SABC. The fact of the matter is that there are serious problems that cut across the board. Some media houses that are playing a "holier than thou" protagonist character in relation to the death of the journalism profession and the ongoing administrative and governance decay at the SABC are in fact worse than the SABC in certain respects. They too, do the same things such as prohibiting negative coverage of certain personalities showering them with positive coverage while either not giving others coverage or covering them in a negative light.

Let us look at the situation facing workers at e.TV/e.NCA and how the media has treated them as we intensify our condemnation of the rot at the SABC. Contrast this with the SABC situation. You will recognise that there is politics in the media that determines at each given time who is covered, how and who is not covered.  

On 10 September 2015 Umsebenzi Online (Vol. 14 No. 35) carried a piece titled "The revolution will not be televised, is this different for workers in the media, workers at e.TV/e.NCA". A part of this title, as can be seen, was adopted from Gil Scott-Heron's "The revolution will not be televised", a phrase Scott-Heron adopted from the slogan of the 1960s struggles in the United States against the racist oppression that was suffered by black people.

The piece called for support to workers at e.SAT (commonly known as e.TV/e.NCA) who had gone out the previous week publicly declaring: "We are not free at e".  They released a statement and said it was time members of the public know what was going on in the media as the world of work, in particular at e.TV/ e.NCA. They appealed for support both from the public and the media industry. The news of their situation did not make it in the media, starting at e.TV/e.NCA where they are being exploited and said they suffered various forms of draconian treatment.

The media ignored the plight of the e.TV/e.NCA workers and did not bother to give them prominent or any coverage at all and organise campaigns in solidarity with them. The issues they raised are no different from what is going on at the SABC by the way if not in certain respects worse.

According to the e.TV/e.NCA workers, e.SAT had over 70 percent Black employees and the viewership is 87 percent Black, yet the top management was made up of White males only. They wanted this discussed and believed that the absence of transformation at e-SAT had a negative bearing on news content and coverage. They wanted to exercise basic employment and labour rations rights, their constitutional right to freedom of association, to join a trade union and have a workplace forum to discuss transformation.

They did not find any joy then, indicating, according to what they saw, that e.TV/e.NCA paid lip service to transformation thus enabling an atmosphere where racism and racist innuendos thrived. A week before, they said, a White female employee referred to Indians as "Coolies" on the Output Desk and no action was taken against her.

The workers further said e.TV/e.NCA's massive Black audience did not find expression in its editorial policy which was driven by the White-only top management. They pointed out that at an editorial meeting earlier in 2015 a top manager said "reporting on rural areas is pointless because the ‘middle class doesn't care about the poor'".

During that time, the e.NCA's Africa Bureau was closed and fifty workers were retrenched, according to the workers despite the ironical fact that e.NCA calls itself "e.News Channel Africa". Meanwhile in May the same year top management received 10 percent salary increases and performance bonuses", said the workers who further asked "Performance for what? How can they be rewarded for job losses?"

Let us be consistent!!!!!

  • Cde Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson and writes in his capacity as a full-time professional revolutionary

Quest for full education: SADTU is pushing for curriculum changes to reflect the liberation struggle

By Mugwena Maluleke

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) is not only a working-class trade union, but it is also a professional association of revolutionary teachers who remember the rich history of this country, and who are strongly determined to pass on their knowledge to all our young compatriots.

SADTU is affiliated to COSATU and is allied with the ANC, the SACP and the South African National Civic Association (SANCO).

SADTU was established in 1990, in the presence of Nelson Mandela, following a directive of the ANC, under teacher Oliver Tambo, given in the late 1980s during the preparation of the famous Harare Declaration.

1950: Sacrifice for unity

As a trade union, on June 26th of each year, SADTU recalls the great stayaway of June 26, 1950, called by the ANC and united structures of the day, to demand freedom of speech and association and most particularly to protest at the banning of the Communist Party of South Africa, the predecessor of the SACP, in May of that year.

The June 26, 1950, stayaway was a follow-up to the May Day 1950 stayaway that had ended in the massacre of 18 militants by the apartheid police in Alexandra and on the East Rand in the evening of that day.

There have been many massacres in South Africa. As SADTU, we would wish to remember all of them and remember every single martyr who died for revolutionary unity in South Africa.

1952: Defiance of unjust laws

We remember June 26 of 1952. The great Defiance Campaign started on that day. Still against the banning of our communist allies, but it was now also against the pass laws and all of the odious apartheid legislation of the racist National Party government.

One of those laws was the hated Bantu Education Act, which came into force in 1953.

Not only was the Bantu Education Act racist, but it was a scheme for racialised labour power, which was the essence of apartheid.

The Defiance Campaign was hard, but the liberation movement grew in the next two years as never before. It became a giant in those years. Chief Luthuli called this effect "courage rising with danger".

1955: The Freedom Charter

On June 26 1955, the Freedom Charter was passed at the Congress of the People in Kliptown in the south of Johannesburg.

As the democratic teachers, we have special reason to celebrate the Freedom Charter, which says, among other things, that "Teachers shall have all the rights of other citizens."

Teachers have the right to organise and the right to strike. No one should ever try to tell teachers or principals which union to belong to.

As revolutionary professionals we celebrate the Freedom Charter for defining, once and for all, what education really is: "The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace."

This statement of the Freedom Charter means that the aim of education is to bring up children to be mature adults, and at the same time, citizens of the country that is their own. In short, it declares people's education for people's power.

This is in direct contrast to the fake "Democratic" and fake "Alliance" DA political party of reaction, which only wants labour power to exploit, and nothing else.

The DA has not changed its ideas much, since the Bantu Education Act of 1953. Its means may have changed, slightly, but its aims have not change at all.

History of the liberation struggle

After 1955 and until 1994, June 26 was celebrated by the majority of South Africans, disenfranchised as they were, as National Freedom Day.

Now, we have a different Freedom Day, in commemoration of the first democratic election on April 27, 1994, but we do not wish to forget June the 26th.

We will never forget it. The lessons of the struggle for freedom should never be put behind us. It is this struggle that created in us South Africans a common knowledge of what is right and what is wrong.

We as SADTU demand the teaching of the full, partisan history of the South African liberation struggle in our schools, now and forever.

Loving our culture, we demand the teaching of children in their home language.

Hating Bantu education, we demand a full education and not a second-rate education, for all, whether it be in maths and science, or in the humanities, or in music, dance and drama.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union is still on a mission. It refuses utilitarian education.

Once again, we refuse a substitute for education that consists of markers, tests and rote learners.


The South African liberation struggle is not ended. It is still a work in progress.

We deplore the thought of allowing the successors of the National Party, the DA, to govern even a single municipality. The DA represents a return to the past.

The DA is reactionary and counter-revolutionary. All statements to the contrary by the DA are false.

The acid test is this: the DA will never agree to the teaching of true liberation struggle history in schools.

Hence, we wish to press this demand for the teaching of full liberation struggle history in schools, because it exposes the DA and its fellow-travellers within government for the reactionaries they are.

In the eternal spirit of June 26 and the immortal Freedom Charter, SADTU wholeheartedly supports the ANC, in all wards and municipalities, in the coming municipal elections.

Cde Mugwena Maluleke is SADTU general secretary and SACP Central Committee member. An edited version of this piece was first carried by The New Age on 24 June 2016