Minister in the Presidency, Mr. Jackson Mthembu
Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Dr Reginah Mhaule
MECs for Education
Chairpersons and Members of the Portfolio and the Select Committees
Asmal family represented by Mr Rafiq Asmal
Former Directors-General of the Department of Education
Heads of Provincial Education Departments
All National Teaching Awards sponsors
All Education Stakeholders’ Representatives
Finalists of the 20th National Teaching Awards
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Fellow South Africans
The 20th edition of the National Teaching Awards (NTA) confirms government’s policy stance that our teachers deserve only the best accolades.
Today is indeed a special day as we celebrate the great and remarkable exploits of teachers who give of themselves to the education of the nation and her children.
This event has become the most prestigious event in our calendar, second only to the National Senior Certificate Results announcement.
We owe a debt of gratitude to thousands of teachers who dedicate every minute of their lives to our national effort to improve learners’ outcomes and thus the standard of education as a whole.
The historic achievements we notched up in the 2019 Matric results means that our basic education system is now firmly a system on the rise.
This is despite the prevailing constrained fiscal environment which has resulted in low levels of investment in school infrastructure, challenges of schools safety, and social ills such as drugs, violence and teenage pregnancies.
On behalf of basic education sector as a whole, we salute all the winners, and equally all the NTA contestants.
We are proud of your exploits as our teachers. You’re our first line of defense in shining the spotlight on improving literacy as a fundamental human endeavour.
Finally, we wish salute all schools and teachers who have entered the National Teaching Awards since the year 2000.
We acknowledge their extraordinary efforts, which have been achieved often under very difficult conditions, and in service to our children.
We know the challenges you face as many of our children come from underprivileged families, and economically depressed communities.
As a nation we are very much proud of your commitment, and we acknowledge your selfless service aimed at the betterment the lives of the South African child.
Thank you for nurturing and developing these precious young people in your care so as to ensure that they reach their fullest potential.
The 20th National Teaching Awards takes place as we celebrate the 30 years since our former President Nelson Mandela walked out of the apartheid jail after 27 long years.
As we know Madiba emptied himself for the realisation of a noble goal of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
It is now incumbent upon this generation of teachers and education managers to take our country to the next level of social cohesion and academic excellence.
We shall draw lessons and inspiration from Madiba’s life as we confront the challenges of the present.
We shall use this historic occasion to unite, rebuild, and renew the basic education sector so that it can leapfrog into the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Our mission remains to realise a much improved learners’ outcomes, and high performing basic education system in our lifetime.
Failure is not an option. Our people deserve much more!
Ladies and gentlemen, we warmly welcome our guest of honour, Minister in the Presidency, Mr. Jackson Mthembu.
Minister Mthembu has always been an anti-apartheid activist who was part of the liberation struggle. He cut his political teeth in student politics in the 1970’s.
He was born and bred in Witbank (Emalahleni) in 1958, Mpumalanga Province.
He was a student leader at Elukhanyisweni Secondary School in Witbank during the 1976 students’ Uprisings. His activism continued when he was a student at the historic University of Fort Hare, resulting in his expulsion in 1980.
He contributed immensely to the birth of the Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU), the predecessor of the National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA).
He became a MAWU senior shop steward at Highveld Steel Corporation where he worked as a training officer.
At the same company he was later promoted to be one of the first few black steel production foremen in the industry.
He was a leading member of the eMalahleni Civic Association. He led both the local branches of the National Education Crisis, and the Detainees Parents’ Support Committees (DPSC), all affiliates of the United Democratic Front (UDF) then.
During the state of emergency in the 1980s, he was subjected to constant harassment and persecution by the security forces of the apartheid regime, resulting in several months of detentions without trial mostly in solitary confinement.
Acts of persecution by the agents of the apartheid regime included petrol bombing of his house in Witbank and being subjected to various forms of torture at police stations.
He was charged with sabotage, treason and terrorism between 1986 and 1988, and tried together with 30 other activists from Witbank.
The trial came to be known as the Bethal terrorism trial and he was acquitted. After this acquittal, the apartheid security police continued with his harassment and intimidation.
This led him to moving away from Witbank and find refuge in Soweto and Alexandra in the Gauteng Province as an “internal exile”, seriously disrupting his family life.
He was elected as the Deputy Regional Secretary of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the then PWV region (now Gauteng Province) under the leadership of the late Mama Albertina Sisulu.
It was through his involvement with the South African Council of Churches (SACC) under the able leadership of Rev. Frank Chikane that he joined the SWAPO solidarity campaign.
The solidarity campaign was comprised of various civic groups including the religious community, business and taxi associations under the banner of the UDF.
He was part of the UDF and the progressive forces leadership collective that supported SWAPO’s election campaign. They provided, among others, minibus taxis to transport voters during the first democratic elections in what was then South West Africa (now Namibia).
SWAPO won the elections which led to the liberation of the then South West Africa (Namibia) from apartheid South Africa.
After the unbanning of political parties in 1990, he was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the Witbank branch of the ANC.
Between 1990–1994 he worked fulltime as ANC spokesman in Mpumalanga and participated as ANC staff component at the CODESA negotiations.
Since the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, he has served in several strategic roles including as a member of the ANC Mpumalanga Provincial Executive Committee.
He has been part of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) since 2007.
After the first democratic elections in 1994, he was part of the first ANC Members of Parliament contingent deployed in the then Senate (now NCOP).
At the NCOP, he contributed to the crafting of our democratic Constitution in the Constituent Assembly then under the able leadership of the now President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He was later appointed as MEC in Mpumalanga Province for Public Works, Roads and Transport serving under the successive Premierships of Matthew Phosa and Thabang Makwetla.
He was the national spokesperson of the ANC under President Nelson Mandela from 1995 – 1997, appointed to the same role again from 2009 – 2014.
While based at Luthuli House, one of the structures he chaired was the ANC Caster Semenya Support Committee. This committee included the late indomitable Mama Winnie Mandela.
The responsibility of this committee was to give practical support to Caster against the inhumane treatment, abuse and discrimination she was subjected to by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).
He served as the Chief Whip of the ANC in the National Assembly from 2016 up to the end of the 5th term of parliament in 2019.
After the 2019 national and general elections he was appointed as the Minister in the Presidency.
Minister Mthembu is married to Thembi Mthembu, together with their children they have made Mbombela (Nelspruit) their home.
Minister in the Presidency, Mr. Mthembu, please address us.