SADTU in Limpopo takes the Department to court over non-payment of teacher salaries

13 January 2017

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union condemns in the strongest terms possible the ongoing failure of the Limpopo Department of Education to comply with the laws regarding the payment of the salaries of educators. More than 100 educators nearly spent their Christmas and New Year without having received their salaries were SADTU not to launch an urgent application in the Labour Court on the 2nd December 2016 to force the Department to pay their salaries. As a result of this application, 70 educators received their salaries by December 31 2016.

SADTU has since August 2016 been engaged in a process to prevail upon the Department to process the salaries of educators. It was when it became clear that no amount of persuasion would have the Department process the salaries that SADTU opted to approach the Labour Court for an order.

Not wholly unexpected, the Department opposed the application on the basis that it was not urgent and sought that the application be dismissed. The Department lost this round after the court ruled that the application was in fact urgent. The Department then started another set of delaying tactics by failing to file their papers by the 30th December 2016 as ordered by the court.

In her affidavit explaining why the Department failed to file their papers on the 30thDecember 2016 the Head of Department simply stated that there were public holidays including Christmas, effectively meaning she did not want to be disturbed on Christmas. Not even the Judge who made the ruling that the application was urgent was spared in this Head of Department's affidavit. In her little world the Judge was oblivious to the fact that Christmas was around the corner when she ruled that the application was urgent. She said this against the backdrop that her own employees who served diligently throughout the year and were not paid salaries for periods some ranging up to 8 months did not enjoy Christmas due to the financial distress her own incompetence caused. She also allowed key staff to take leave well aware that there were educators whose salaries remained unpaid. This can only represent a heartless employer who lacks even the basic empathy required of a person in her position.

The court application has once more amply demonstrated that there are extreme levels of incompetence and mismanagement in the department and that this Head of Department represents nothing but a bleak future for education in the province. That she hardly knows or understands that a person who is a permanent resident does not require a work permit tells it all. She appeared to have even forgotten that she was the one who issued a decree for the extension of the contracts of educators. When confronted with this circular our legal team were told that this was an internal document as if educators are not part of the department.

Throughout the process of the application, it became clear that the department hardly knew all the persons it appointed and that they hardly had proper records of the educators employed. It is probably for this reason that they advanced all manner of tired excuses why some of the educators were not paid. SADTU had to play the role of the registry by providing documents to the department to prove that these educators were in fact employed and rendered a service.

Despite all the resistance and delaying tactics, the department has finally agreed and by court order are to pay the salaries of the remainder of the educators by the 30thJanuary 2016. The first batch of these educators is to be paid in the first run of this year.

As a Union we have felt the pain and the humiliation our members suffered throughout the period of their non-payment during the festive period and as schools open. It is for this reason that the leadership has throughout this period focussed their energies in pursuing the court application.

It is regrettable that this Head of Department does not see her failure to pay salaries as a violation of the human rights of educators. Christmas was more important to her than the plight of those who served under the most trying circumstances.

We take this opportunity to thank our members and educators for heeding our call not to disrupt the education of the children despite this extreme provocation by this Head of Department. We had hoped that at the least all educators would be paid by the time schools reopened.

The structures of SADTU will, in due course, engage and make a determination of whether we will have a proper relationship with this Head of Department in the light of this experience. We also call upon educators who are owed salaries to come forward so that we can take their issues up with this intransigent administration under this Head of Department.

In the coming weeks we will be making an announcement on the steps we will be taking to ensure that we address the persistent failure to pay benefits to educators. As we do so, we shall take into account the experiences we have already with this Head of Department.

Despite all these adverse conditions, we again call on our members and educators to give their best in the service of our communities as we intensify our efforts to resolve all other outstanding matters.


Raphasha Matome (Provincial Secretary: 082 804 0800)
Tjebane Sowell (Provincial Deputy Secretary: 082 808 3161)