Representatives of 19 EI member organisations from Southern Africa, meeting in Johannesburg, condemned in the strongest terms the actions of the Swaziland Government in brutally attacking strikers and imprisoning many of them.
The union leaders called for an immediate cessation of the violence and the release of those who had been imprisoned. Ms Sibongile Mazibuko, the President of SNAT, the EI member organisation in Swaziland, left the meeting to return home urgently to assist her colleagues who were attacked and imprisoned.
Representatives of EI member organisations from Swaziland, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Angola and Mozambique met for the first time in Johannesburg under the umbrella of the EI African sub-regional structure, Zone 6.
The union representatives discussed the question of teacher unity in the countries in the sub-region and the future cooperation of unions within the sub-regional structure. They declared that they were opposed to the proliferation of unions in some countries in the sub-region and that they were committed to greater cooperation and closer working relations between unions at national level. They also committed themselves to meeting under the Zone 6 banner more frequently and mandated the leading organisations in the region, together with the Zone representatives on the Regional Committee’ to consult about arrangements to facilitate meetings of representatives of the member organisations in the countries in the Zone on a regular basis in the future.
The EI Chief Regional Coordinator for Africa, Assibi Napoe, who was present at the meeting, assured the participants that the EI regional office would support such a development and be willing to participate in such meetings. She asked that the organisers of future meetings liaise with the regional office through Richard Etonu, who is the coordinator responsible for the sub-region.
The EI Deputy General Secretary, Charlie Lennon, who was also present, welcomed the frank and open discussion on, what he said, were difficult issues for the member organisations. He said that the commitments to teacher unity and to closer working relations at the sub-regional levels would strengthen the influence of the organisations nationally and in the sub-region and that could only be good for their members and for the promotion of quality education in the area.
The representatives of member organisations in Southern Africa also identified the most serious challenges facing education and trade unions in the area and consulted each other about appropriate and effective responses. They agreed to give further consideration to a number of these issues at future meetings. They received a presentation from the Deputy General Secretary on the crisis in education resulting from the impact of the global economic crisis. They expressed great concern about the impact of reductions in development aid in many countries in Africa and about the implications of cutbacks in spending on education on already under-resourced education systems in the countries in the sub-region.