Was the Teacher’s Strike Really Necessary?

The recent protest march held by the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) solely affected pupils from poor communities, the department of basic education says. Reports indicated that the North West province was the most affected, with 2 048 teachers reported to be absent while 18 schools were shut down across the four districts said department spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi. In the Western Cape,  2474 teachers were reported absent from school while 163 schools were affected and a total of 48 schools were closed. .http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/Politics/Dept-Poor-hardest-hit-by-teacher-strike-20130424

The Democratic Alliance said it was “disgusted” by what it called Sadtu’s abuse of children’s rights for political point scoring.” We share the anger that both parents and children must feel at the loss of such crucial teaching time,” DA MP Annette Lovemore said in a statement. The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry applauded the education department for warning teachers not to take part in the marches. The matters could have been resolved through negotiation, it said. “So there is no need to disrupt education en masse. It is worth noting that a ‘march’ or strike has exactly the same impact on pupils; if teachers are not in classrooms, then the education system falls apart,” it said in a statement.

It goes without saying that the schools most affected are the schools needing the most attention at present. These are the schools whose teachers get low salaries, the schools without textbooks, where the dropout rates are highest. These children already suffer from a sub-standard education, where teachers often fail to show up for classes and where violence disrupts daily life. The wide scale strike can only add to this neglect and distraction. It could also encourage apathy, as if teachers do not show up for school, why should pupils?

Even at schools that were not directly affected, it was reported that children were seen playing, going home or walking to the shops. Many teachers not involved in the strike also left and took the day off.  “Teaching didn’t take place in Soweto schools. A lot of the teachers didn’t go to the march but they didn’t teach… we are disappointed in the manner in which they approached this, said National Association of Parents in School Governance chairman Mahlomola Kekana. http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/pupils-lose-in-teacher-strike-1.1506314#.UY_z3KJqng0. How is this acceptable, it is not an occasion for a holiday, but a normal working day where teacher who cared for their pupils should have been there, teaching. As has been said, the demands could have been met without such a disruption, therefore why did teacherS go on strike? They were clearly looking out more for themselves then for their pupils. I do feel that these teachers are not looking out for the best interests of students in the way that they have conducted themselves this last month, they have shown that they have not the right attitude or dedication, which is worrying indeed for the future generation.

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On the Recent Jammie Strikes and Coercion

From 19 April thousands of commuters had to make other plans for getting around, as bus drivers nationwide went on strike. They demanded a double digit annual wage increase of 18% (which was not viable) therefore the strike went on longer than expected and caused a deadlock.  Services provided by Golden Arrow, Translux and MyCiTi had come to a standstill during this time. The outsourcing of the transport system of UCT, Sibanye, had also exposed students and staff to the ill effect of the nationwide bus strike. SRC Services and Labour Coordinator Lwazi Somya highlighted the importance of the participation of the Jammie Bus drivers, “Our Jammie drivers also form part of that national picture and we need to be careful before we isolate our drivers from the national phenomenon.”http://www.varsitynewspaper.co.za/news/1572-bus-strikes-cause-chaos-on-campus.

Of course I agree, Jammie drivers also need to fight for better wages,  even though this inconveniences students for a while (strikes always inconvenience people). But what I do not agree with is the fact that often people are coerced into joining strikes or else they are threatened. In 2011 I remember practising piano in one of the practice rooms at UCT when all of a sudden a cleaner burst in asking if she could hide behind the piano. I asked her what was wrong, as she seemed very upset, and was shaking badly, and she explained that there was a staff strike, but she did not want to join as she was scared she would lose her job. If members of the strike saw her, she would be grabbed and made to join in, forced. She was so incredibly stressed out about this, it was terrible to see.

Apparently many bus drivers were happy to not take part and to keep driving the students about, but “were threatened by outsiders” says SRC Services and Labour Coordinator Lwazi Somya. It is a difficult and tense situation, as I suppose the only way that drivers can get what they want is by showing that the majority of them stand for an increase, that the strike represents bus drivers everywhere.  But the way in which people are threatened and forced is not the right way of approaching such unity, they need to want to do it.

Angie’s Panties

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(No source provided)

The government expressed deep shock at the recent displaying of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s ‘panties’ during a strike. The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) protest was a call for the resignation of Motshekga and her director general, Bobby Soobrayan. “This kind of behaviour… infringes the rights of women, which are enshrined in our hard fought for Constitution,” acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams said after the march. “It is very ironic that the trade unions who played an important role in the liberation struggle of our country and in particular the drafting of the Constitution are the very ones that are degrading the hard fought for freedoms.” http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/Politics/Govt-shocked-disappointed-in-Sadtu-20130425.

While it is understandable that protesters want to make a point, this statement was put across in a very inappropriate way. How did the showing off of Angie’s supposed underwear aid them in their demands? It did not. In actual fact why should demands be met when the people asking for something go about it in such an obnoxious way? It is degrading and infringes on the rights of women, especially as our constitution promotes non-sexism. This act infringed on Motshekga’s right to dignity, leaving her feeling embarrassed, and in actual fact diverging greatly from the point of the protest.  If people want respect and to be treated well according to their rights as citizens, then how can they go about disrespecting others in such an open, shameless way?

Come On Teachers, Leave the Pupils Out of it!

During a recent teachers strike, grade 10 to 12 pupils were asked to take a day off school to join in. The march was supposed to be against education inequality. According to The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (sadtu) the strike also aimed to pressure Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her director general Bobby Soobrayan to resign from their positions. They were also protesting about the Limpopo textbook saga, and school closures in the Western Cape. According to The Cape Times, provincial education MEC Donald Grant said the march was not in the best interests of pupils. “Once again, the best interests of learners are being placed at risk at what is for all of them a critical time in the academic year,” his spokesperson Bronagh Casey said. http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Pupils-asked-to-take-day-off-join-protest-20130423.

I have to agree with Casey on this matter. It is one thing for the teachers to march for their own reasons, but pupils should not be made to feel obligated in any way, and I feel, should be discouraged from doing such things. Especially as senior members of school, with important work to complete and learn, and also nearing exams, this can only be disruptive and unproductive for the pupils. Why do they need to be involved in the teacher’s issues? The teachers should be looking out for their pupils’ best interests as this is their job first and foremost. First of all they are possibly compromising the safety of the children, as strikes do become violent at times. Secondly they need all of the school hours they can get, as pass rates in South African schools are often worryingly low as it is. Come on teachers, be real here.

UCT article on ‘Most Attractive Race’ seeks to show that South Africa is far from where it wants to be

Last week a very controversial article came out in the’Varsity’ newspaper. The author of the article interviewed 60 people at UCT, 10 of each race, asking each group which races they found most attractive. The poll was published along with what I thought to be quite a sarcastic article talking about the results. The results of the pole were rather blatant, with 38% thinking white people were the most attractive and only 8% saying that black people were. Before all of the reactions came out in the news, I read the article myself, thinking it odd that such an article could have been published without causing any kind of stir or raising any concerns. They did come, in the next day or so, and so fiercely. http://www.varsitynewspaper.co.za/opinions/1468-is-love-colour-blind.

I can definitely understand why this article has been read offensively, as phrases like “Quite unsurprisingly, Caucasians were chosen as the most attractive by most non-whites” and “we would have better luck creating a research wing at Med School dedicated to cloning white people to feed the demand than trying to understand the origins of some our supposed “preferences”” are just asking to rub people up the wrong way. I feel also that the poll itself, because of its extreme results, should not have been published, as it simply made many people feel bad, angry and offended in a country where many races are still trying to regain a sense of self confidence.

With all fairness to the author I do not actually think that she intended to offend, I think that the article itself is trying to make a critical comment about the fact that in a free , post-apartheid society, we are still so focused upon race as a defining feature which deters or attracts us to a person, and are so heavily influenced by the western notion of beauty we see in Hollywood films; slim, fair white women ( not that I endorse this notion). I also think that had the author been white we would have had a different issue on our hands, as the article would have appeared a lot more conceited and elitist. However, judging by the name of the author I do not think this is the case.

As I have said, I think that this article is using the results of the poll to exemplify the fact that we still have a long way to go in South Africa  BECAUSE people still appear to think of whites as “more attractive”, “harder to attract”, “the ultimate status symbol”- all attitudes bread through regimes like apartheid. However it was written in a manner that offended, and the poll certainly added serious insult to injury.

News Analysis

The Marikana mining strike and massacre grabbed large scale media attention in August last year (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19848915.).  The saga is said to have begun on August 10 where 3000 workers walked off the job and went on a march.  Between the 12th and 14th approximately nine people were killed in the area around Marikana (http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/cops-killed-as-conflict-spirals-at-lonmin-1.1361862#.UUwGtRdqng0.)(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19245758.). On the 16th police opened fire where 34 miners were killed, 78 injured and 270 workers arrested. On September 20 miners finally returned to work (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20218828.). In this analysis I will look at the ways in which three different sources have reported on the events of the 16th as they unfolded.

My first article is called “Miners killed at South Africa’s Lonmin Marikana mine”, by BBC News World (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-19286654.).  It came out on August 16, so can be seen as newsworthy information as it was fresh to the public on that day. It outlines the event in terms of the violence and deaths that occurred, using mostly quotes to explain. It is aimed at an international audience, as the article can be found under a tab called ‘Africa’. It is also aimed at national and local business and finance orientated readers as it mentions the financial losses that Lonmin suffered because of the protest. The article makes use of eye witness accounts, news agency spokes persons, the president’s words and that of Lonmin, instead of just one source. What I find problematic nonetheless is that no miners’ voices are heard in the piece.

Framing is a term that describes the choosing of an angle when writing a news story, which guides the reader’s interpretation (Scheufele, 2007). This article does not choose to frame either the police or miners in a favourable light. Let’s look more closely at some of the text. The article begins by explaining “police opened fire after miners carrying machetes, clubs and spears refused to disarm”. Later we have “police tried in vain”, “…missiles were thrown at police, who responded by opening fire”. Here police action seems to be justified, as miners are described as aggressive and armed. However, another witness says, “police had first used tear gas in an attempt to disperse miners” and “…threatened them with water from the water cannon, fired tear gas and stun grenades”. This implies that police initiated the violence. The heading to the second part of the article is written in inverted commas, perhaps suggesting some criticism of the term ‘illegal gatherings’. It explains that the police defended their actions, and that spokesman Zweli Mnisi said that “to protest is a legal and constitutional right of any citizen,”  “However, these rights do not imply that people should be barbaric, intimidating and hold illegal gatherings”. These utterances seek to justify police action, and convey a very accusatory tone towards the miners. The reporter of the article seems to be using them in order to make a point about police justification.   The article mentions the outrage over the way in which the incident was dealt with, reminiscent of apartheid, throwing light on the police as brutal and unjustified in their actions.  Ultimately neither the police nor miners are framed favourably, with the whole incident being described as a ‘clash’ between two aggressive parties.

There is no photograph at the top of the article, but rather a video that shows the shooting from behind police lines. This video shows miners running towards police, who then shoot and kill some of them. It is graphic and shocking.  There is one smaller photo further down, which shows police and paramedics helping injured people, which perhaps make police look more benevolent than the video. This article is objective as it shows two possible sides to a complex story, choosing not to elevate one party’s actions over the other.

Article two is called “Nehawu: Marikana killings ‘senseless’” on Fin24 (http://www.fin24.com/Companies/Mining/Nehawu-Marikana-killings-senseless-20120817.).  This is a business minded news site; therefore its readers are likely to be interested in a large scale protest that affects the production of a major company such as the Lonmin one, which in turn affects the stock market. It can be considered news worthy information as it came out the day after the fatal incident. It is about people (the miners and police), it is dramatic in content as it talks about the terrible violence that occurred. All of this makes the story valued as news.

This article mainly makes use of the Nehawu’s Sizwe Pamela’s feelings of disgust at the way in which the incident was handled by authorities.  It does not give any miners or the SAPS a voice, perhaps in an attempt to avoid accounts that are too subjective.  It chooses to include only sources that condemn the action of the police and who disapprove of the way that wage disputes have been dealt with by mining executives and union leaders, holding them accountable for the miners resorting to aggression. Pamela speaks of police as using ‘apartheid tactics’. The Black Business Council describes the shooting as a “bloodbath”. Pamela speaks about the exploitation of miners by the mining companies and how they have been allowed to “get away with murder” for too long. The article also highlights allegations of police tampering with evidence. The Police are heavily criticised for their choice of weapons capable of killing.  I believe that this article frames the miners as victims and the police as unacceptably brutal. The article does not have a photograph, so relies only on its content to portray the sense of tragedy and horror that the incident invokes. It is framed in a specific way and therefore cannot be seen as objective reporting.

Article three is entitled “The guns of Marikana” by City Press (http://www.citypress.co.za/news/the-guns-of-marikana-20120818/.).   It was written on August 18, so it contains newsworthy information. The article describes the way that miners prepared for the strike with ‘mhuti’ and rituals which were supposed to make them invincible. It also exposes the violent way in which they dealt with those not adhering to their orders to join in the protest, and explains the brutal way these people were murdered. It is a blow by blow account by a witnessing journalist, and does not incorporate anybody’s opinion, or alternative witnesses. This site is aimed at black South Africans, therefore labour disputes are likely to interest this audience.

The article insinuates that the police tried in vain to disband the protesters and that a protester fired at police first. The police are therefore shown in a good light, the shooting seen as something that occurred as a last resort; miners “turned towards the police near a cattle kraal, charging with spears, pangas and sticks. One man was seen firing at the police”. The article also refers to the protesters as ‘warriors’ which makes them seem scary and also tribal and irrational. It also questions why protesters ran at police when they were clearly vulnerable, and speculates that perhaps they really thought they were invincible.

The article utilises a map which outlines how the events took place and where. The map helps to illustrate the article’s point that police only opened fire because they were first charged at by miners with weapons. In a text box to the left of the map are the stages that allegedly occurred, how the police first tried to disperse protesters with water cannons, and shot at them with rubber bullets, and only later with actual bullets.  We can safely say therefore that the framing favours the police action as necessary and justifiable, and the miners as unnecessarily violent and having provoked the incident, making this article subjective.

Words excluding citations, heading and reference list: 1254

Reference List

BBC News World, 2012.  Miners killed at South Africa’s Lonmin Marikana mine. [Online]. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-19286654 [Accessed 28 March 2013].

City Press, 2012. The guns of Marikana. [Online]. Available at http://www.citypress.co.za/news/the-guns-of-marikana-20120818/ [Accessed 29 March 2013].

Fin24, 2012. Nehawu: Marikana killings ‘senseless’. [Online]. Available at http://www.fin24.com/Companies/Mining/Nehawu-Marikana-killings-senseless-20120817 [Accessed 28 March 2013].

Scheufele, Dietram A. & David Tewksbury, 2007. Framing, Agenda Setting, and Priming: The Evolution of Three Media Effects Models. Journal of Communication 57: 9-20.

Why stone cars?

On Monday 11 March, in the morning, protesters threw stones at motorists on the R114, police reported. This took place between Malibongwe and Cedar roads in Johannesburg. (http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Joburg-protesters-throw-stones-at-cars-20130311.) . About 200 workers apparently became violent and therefore traffic had to be diverted. Roads were closed off at 4.45am because protesters barricaded them with burning tyres. At the time the reason for the protest was unknown. Clearly these protesters were angry and therefore trying to make a scene.

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(File, Sapa)

I read an opinion piece on the incident (http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/I-dont-know-you-but-ill-hurt-you-anyway-20130311) which I have to agree with. Sheilan, the writer, talks about the fact that a friend of hers had his windscreen smashed at this very incident, and she poses the question “How the hell does it help to harm people who you aren’t really angry at?” I know that I have spoken about violence in protests before, but I feel particularly disgusted about this stone throwing business. It is very scary indeed, and exhibits extremely misplaced anger, perhaps directing us to the much more serious problem of anger and violence in South Africa. The impact of a stone thrown at a car can be detrimental to more than just one car and its passengers. A driver may react to a stone in a number of ways out of sheer panic, including breaking suddenly (which could lead to being hit by another car), swerving (which could lead to hitting another car or a barrier) or being injured by the stone and glass. One’s smashed windscreen could also impair vision, making driving dangerous for them and others. This is just a very spiteful and unjustified way of causing a scene, which could cost innocent people their lives and does not solve a single thing or prove anything, it is not even related!  I understand that protesters often blockade areas in order to get noticed, and that sometimes they may carry weapons or burn tyres or act in a threatening manner, but why throw stones at passing, uninvolved people? I think that it is just pushing things a little too far. It definitely will not motivate people to listen to and adhere to their wishes.