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The Presidents

10 Things You Need To Know About Your President:


·         Is a family man.

·         Is the seventh of 10 siblings.

·         Enjoys wrestling.

·         Loves gospel music.

·         Is very talkative.

·         Loves stews, roasted, braaied or boiled meat.

·         Is passionate about education.

·         Hates curries.

·         Is the father to three sons.

·         Is married to his high school sweetheart.


Who is S.L. Ngcobo?

Born on December 15, 1954, Ngcobo hails from rural Mahlabathini in Ulundi, northern KwaZulu-Natal.

He has been married for 31 years to his high school sweetheart, Sithabile Sibuselaphi Buthelezi-Ngcobo and they have three adorable sons; Mlungisi, Sinethemba and Vamumusa Ngcobo.

He’s known for not compromising on family time even though he may have a lot on his plate when it comes to leading one of the oldest teacher unions in South Africa.

It has become family tradition to have braais and family members who come from all over to meet at one central point for gatherings over the festive season.

When tracing his origins, Ngcobo found that his family history goes back to Ndwedwe, a rural area just outside Durban

Ngcobo explains how he was awarded his names Siphosethu Lindinkosi. He comes from a family of 10 and he is the seventh child in the family.

“There were girls before me and my parents had prayed for a boy. I was born into a Christian family and my parents believed that one day their prayers would be answered and I was the answer,” said a bubbly Ngcobo.

He adores his 95 year-old mother, Bestinah and he describes her as “strong, critical thinker and physically fit for her age.

“She has a very good strong relationship with her children, grandchildren and great grand- children, gogo is an upstanding individual,” he said with a smile.

While growing up, he was a member of the Martin Lutheran Church.

He strongly believes in prayer but for the past 10 years, he has not been associated to any church congregation because he feels that Christians are not following what is in the Bible.

Ngcobo loves food and eats everything except for curries because he feels that they are not healthy.

“When I talk about food, I talk about boiled oxtail or roasted beef; I love stews or boiled chicken – now that is food to me.”

With regards to religion, he describes himself as a staunch believer but not just in Christ but also in life.

He does not believe in things being impossible. “Anything is possible. While growing up I was a very active person and hard worker. I don’t want to see anything standing in my way and that belief blends in with any religion. If I am told that something is not working out, I want to know why.”

“You may think you’ve beaten a wrestler to a pulp but you can`t keep a man down and for me it is not about winning.”

Ngcobo enjoys gospel music and makes sure that he never travels without a gospel CD in his car.

When we speak about his 30 th wedding anniversary that was celebrated in 2011, his faces lights up.

With the theme ‘Count Your Blessings and Name Them One By One,” the event was held at the Holiday Inn: Garden Court in Ulundi and was attended by about 1500 people.

He is a die-hard wrestling fan which he says teaches him resilience.

He recalls: “It was a wonderful and a very prestigious occasion…it was the talk of the town. I have lived with my wife for over 32 years and I love her very much.

“She is very important to me and she has given me the family that I’ve always wanted and moulded it.”

Ngcobo said anniversaries should be celebrated annually and was happy to have celebrated it with close friends and family.

Ngcobo’s father was a teacher by profession and that inspired him to follow in his footsteps.  The profession afforded him the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life thereby revealing a more sociable side of his personality.

“The profession I chose made me a very talkative person. I can talk without stopping and once I start I don’t stop. Please stop me if I am going too far,” he asked the union’s writer. His father travelled a lot and moved with his family from place to place to teach at different schools.

Before Ngcobo’s teaching career kicked off, he went through some hardships.

He said he nearly got out of hand in high school as he consistently played truant, started smoking and drinking because he wanted to fit in being a withdrawn child in the early days of his life.

Ngcobo also dropped out of Matric which was known as Form 4 back then.

Instead, he chose to do piece jobs in trading stores where he earned R25 a month.

He was later hired as a switchboard operator at KwaCeza Hospital where he earned R95 a month.

From there, he became an unqualified teacher in Maths at Ntilingo Primary School.

His life changed when he was in his late 20’s as a result of religious reasons.

Ngcobo got to learn about the National Teachers Union by accompanying his colleagues who attended meetings.

“That is how I became a member of the union. I was very good in Maths even though I was an unqualified teacher, learners preferred to be taught by me.

“That encouraged me to go back to school. I passed matric and studied teaching,” he said. Ngcobo attended Madadeni Training College for teacher training and he became a qualified teacher in Maths, Biology and Afrikaans.

He studied for his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of South Africa (UNISA). He then enrolled for a two-year Bachelor of Education degree.

Ngcobo has played different roles in education and has been in the principal position numerous times at several schools in the Ulundi area.

·         He became an additional member at Mahlabathini branch where he was a minute taker. He has served as a regional chairperson and has served in other different portfolios within the union.

·         He has also served on the Central Executive Board, as a vice president of external affairs which dealt with teacher services.

·         He became a deputy president in 1996 and served for four years before becoming President in 2000.

·         He was involved in the establishment of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) and Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC).

Ngcobo said becoming a teacher was not strange to him because his father was in the same profession.

“It was not by accident. I miss the teaching profession so much. When NATU approached me to be on the board fulltime, it was tough. They begged me and I had to consider so many things before I could say yes. Teaching is next to my heart, it is in my veins and blood. “Teachers at my school were crying when they discovered that I was leaving.”

At the time he was a principal at Gabangaye Primary School and left after 10 years of serving there. His teaching profession has taken him as far as Ngwavuma.

Ngcobo smiles when he talks about his high school sweetheart Sithabile who is also in the teaching profession and is currently the Principal of Dabulamanzi Primary School.

Their relationship started six years after Ngcobo had been persistently asking her out on a date.

He never gave up and always knew she was the one. ”We met at KwaCeza Secondary School and coincidentally, we both moved to Vukuzakhe High School in Umlazi.

“There were many girls but I was after her for six years. She was hard headed and it took me a very long time to get the relationship started.”

Asked about what he felt about the South African education system, Ngcobo said it was about time the standard of education changed. “We need to agree on what education is. Education is not like pouring matters into a person like making a person swallow maths and know it. It is about changing the way people live, it is about behavioural change.”

Ngcobo feels very strongly about education. ‘Today education is not changing society and it has very little effect on learners. “It used to change people during the apartheid times not that I prefer those times but I am saying that the approach was correct. “The bigger picture was not about getting 8 out of 10.”

He said the first democratic Minister of education Bhengu had to be “politically” correct. “Schools are not shacks. Outcome Based Education was introduced when the country was not ready as there was no adequate equipment; teachers needed proper training not a hit and run job.”

Ngcobo felt that Bhengu had to be partly “politically correct” as he could not rubbish anything that could hurt the image of the party but admits that he “compromised on the lives of people and on the expense of the party.”

He said OBE was implemented with the intention to remove the after effect of the Bantu education.

“The country was not prepared, they should have started preparations some years before they phased in OBE like teacher training, teacher-people ratio and classroom equipment. “We need a minister with guts who want to assist the country.”

Ngcobo suggested that the only way to fix the problem is by admitting that it was wrong to politicise education along with other things in the country.

He said the world was being corrupt because organisations were pushing for space, infighting for positions as schools by teacher unions which led to disruption of teaching and learning and some schools went for months without a principal.

Ngcobo lambasted the department of education, saying that they were important more than learners.

“If we want to change this, forget about the MEC and until all those who have interests in education become honest and say that the focus is in the wrong place, we are not going anywhere.”

Ngcobo said there was a need to get footing correct and stop focusing on the top, rather put all he focus at the bottom.

“The first priority is the child. In every decision taken we have to ask ourselves if it is going to benefit that child in the classroom.

“The focus is not on education anymore but more on statistics like matric passes. No one wants to be sincere and honest because political parties and unions are fighting for space. Education is there but it is upside down, even upside down in hierarchy,” he said.

“Children have become football for all unions…the future looks bleak.”

Comparing the pre and post 1994 education system, Ngcobo said there was an introduction of legislation which dealt with the labour law and right of teachers which did not exist while Bantu education was still in operation.

“Back then, teachers depended on leaders, their rights were violated.”

When asked about challenges facing teachers, Ngcobo said they are losing lives to stress caused by debts.

“It hurts but I feel powerless. The union is even thinking of educating teachers on living by their means but it is not easy to change a person’s lifestyle.

“Teachers are also faced with labour problems as they get caught in the cross fire organisations.”

Ngcobo said safety in schools was another issue that needed to be addressed.

“Some teachers are even scared to stand in front of their classrooms because a pupil might be carrying a weapon.

“HIV/Aids in children has become unbearable for some teachers and even when a learner is hungry, it is unbearable for the teacher.”

Ngcobo said in the olden days, children never went hungry because communities practised communism which he feels got lost in the current lifestyle.

He said people needed to practice Ubuntu by finding a genuine way of bringing it back and sharing it with the nation.

“How do we achieve that? By using yourself as a transmitter then everyone would play a role. Let us find ways to influence real people.”

Xaba was elected as NATU president in a meeting that gave birth to the organisation.

He was the principal of Endaweni Intermediate School at the time of his election and later became a priest.

Under Rev Xaba’s rule, NATU held its first Annual Conference in Durban in December 1919. It was at this meeting that the union took serious resolutions on issues that affected teachers in Natal.

No sooner had they emerged from the meeting than they decided to take the bull by the horns on teacher salaries.

Xaba led NATU to negotiate this burning issue with department officials.

Even though this matter fell on deaf ears, Xaba known for his great patience, kept knocking on the door of the education department without a breakthrough.

The issue of salaries did not render this organisation’s pessimistic. Strategies were devised to spread the wings of NATU to the Northern corners of Natal.

The growth rate reported is that NATU had secured an amazing record of 306 (27.9 %) of the 1095 teachers in the whole of Natal by 1920 notwithstanding the difficulties obtaining at the time such as the lack of transport and media support.

The formation of NATU branches regularly increased and this also meant increase in teachers who joined her.

In some areas, the formation of branches was facilitated by boredom suffered by the teachers as they met at clubs where they entertained themselves. This membership record, set in a period of almost two years of NATU’s existence, was amazing.

It showed Xaba’s hardwork when it came to member recruitment.

This growth in unity and strength of teachers in this union was not well received by the white government.


Everything possible was done to divide and eventually destroy the organisation. Teachers were expelled from the profession. This was the beginning of the worst times for the teachers and this union.

Through it all Xaba did not throw in the towel but he derived other strategies as to better face the enemy of the teachers and the union.

Described by many, as a distinguished academic, politician and philanthropist, Professor Z.K. Mathews arrived in natal in 1925 and wasted no time but joined NATU’s Durban and district branch.

He was the first African to be the principal of Adams College.

In this branch, Mathews worked with, inter alia; the well esteemed Inkosi Albert Luthuli, the first to win the much coveted Novel Peace Prize in South Africa and was subsequently president of the African National Congress.

In the same branch, Mathews had the wisdom of stalwarts like Bishop Dr A.H. Zulu, who was teaching at Umlazi mission school before becoming a fulltime priest. B

Bishop Zulu was once a chairman of this branch from 1924 to 1935.

There was also Mr Amos Dlamini, who later became the third president of NATU.

He was the principal of Somtseu Secondary which later changed to Loram Secondary School and Sibonelo High School respectively.

President Mathews served his branch and rose to its chairmanship in 1926 and became an Executive member of NATU.

He was elected president of this organisation in 1926 when Mr Xaba joined the church as a full time leader thereof.

Prof Mathews and his team gave NATU much needed impetus as his skills, wisdom, academic experience and political savvy proved useful to NATU.

Unfortunately, he had to leave Natal for the University of Fort Hare where he was offered the position of lecturer and later Professor.

Mr. Dlamini took over the reins of NATU presidency from Prof. Z.K. Mathew during the great deprecation years. He was president for one term of office and he played his role with lot of dedication and dignity applying pressure to the government at all cost.

He led NATU to influence the Department of Education in Natal to increase the number of bursaries for Africa teachers to study at Fort Hare University.

It has always been NATU`s principle to promote self-development through private study on the part of her members.

NATU also played an important role in ensuring the proper and effective teaching of isiZulu in schools.

This was achieved through setting up a committee for monitoring this process.

The committee also saw to the preservation of African culture and music.

More important was the granting of the request of NATU to have office accommodation in the offices of the Native Africa Department which was responsible for Education in Pietermaritzburg.

NATU under Dlamini sent one memorandum after another to the Department of Education making known the demands of this union to the government.

Mr Robbin Guma led NATU as president for eight years. His general secretary was the industrious CJ Mpanza who in July 1937 became the first full-time paid secretary and treasurer of NATU.

Guma continued where his predecessor had ended in terms of applying great pressure to the department.

He was no new comer to the game as he has served NATU at various levels with other able distinguished leaders.

NATU was also able to persuade the Natal Teachers Journal owners to publish her news in the journal in question, there had been a quarterly Newsletter that NATU had release and this culminated in becoming the first magazine of this organisation in 1937.

Dr. Mthimkhulu`s leadership team of NATU had as its General Secretary Mr S. Khumalo. Together they took NATU to a further gear of progress as they engaged and confronted the Department on  a range of issues apart from teacher salaries.

The support Mthimkhulu received from the executive committee, which included men of great distinction like Mr T. Moerane, who became the treasurer of NATU, assisted him to achieve great victories for the organisation.

The most important of these was the negotiations between NATU and the Minister of finance which resulted in the latter consenting to NATU’s proposals that teacher salary scales should be in accordance with the qualification for teachers from Grade1, 2 and 3, matriculation up to degree level.

Even though the minister in question agreed to that after a long struggle, his fellow white colleagues were so angered by the his positive response such that they branded the Minister in question the “Kaffir Boetie.”

Dr. Mthimkhulu and his team had to fight yet another battle when the Bantu education was introduced.

They also fought the proposal of the apartheid government which wanted to promulgate the African children in their mother tongue, isiZulu in the case of Natal, from substandard A to university level.

Other accolades of NATU during the era of Mthimkhulu as president include the establishment of the African Teachers Association of South Africa (ATASA).

Another important achievement for Mthimkhulu was NATU’s Silver Jubilee was celebrated in July 1943.

NATU made history in 1944 when Mthimkhulu and his executive met the minister of Native Affairs in Cape Town to further oppose Bantu Education proposals.

At the meeting, Dr Mthimkhulu was appointed on the Provincial Commission into Native Education.

Still under Dr. Mthimkhulu, NATU started an inter-racial relations drive that resulted in the invitation of Mr Christopher, an Indian, to address NATU delegates in her Newcastle conference held in 1950. Mthimkhulu is one of the many NATU stalwarts who left the country protesting against apartheid education.

Mr Moerane succeeded Mthimkhulu at a very critical time South African history, more so for NATU.

In 1953, the education of Africans was plunged into darkness when the Bantu Education Act was successfully passed.

But this didn’t deter NATU’s efforts under the auspices of Mr Moerane who cut his teeth as the union’s treasurer.

As treasurer, according to certain sources, Moerane assumed this when the union had R100 in the bank account in 1939.

It must be recalled that every battle NATU fought on behalf of her members was financially costly as well.

But when he left position three years in 1941, NATU`s bank balance had risen to R10000. This informs us that Moerane was a man who left nothing to chance; he took care of even the finer details.

Moerane led one deputation after another to the department of education as had tone his predecessor with more vim and vigour.

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A renowned administration that Moerane was, ensured that the department of education never had it easy.

He also fiercely fought and opposed the government legislation promulgated in 1954 removing control of education from churches and missionaries.

Moerane left the presidency after three years into his successor Mr P.O. Skhakhane to continue the struggle in 1956.

NATU`s achievements during Moerane’s era include the partnership entered into between NATU and the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Group Scheme which meant that NATU would receive a commission of 2% per each premium of her members.

This NATU had been denied before by the Atlantic Insurance Company with which NATU had to part ways.

The department of education too had refused NATU the machinery of colleting the subscription from members by means of a stop-order for fear that more funds would come NATU`s way thus strengthening the position of NATU vis-a-vis the department.

Therefore, the co-operation with Colonial Mutual Life was a great breakthrough NATU.

President Peter Obediah Sikhakhane, popularly known as P.O. was no green horn in the waging of the battles by NATU against the Education Department.

An astute thinker in his own right who later earned a Doctoral Degree, P.O. was the principal of Lamontville High School when he was appointed NATU President and was also a great sportsman.

He relentlessly fought against Verwoerd’s’ policies on Education and he locked horns with the then Minister of Bantu Education, Mr De Wet Nel on a number of occasions.

He led NATU diplomatically in these fights and understanding of fellow human rights especially children.

Sikhakhane believed education transcended racial, regional and continental barriers, so he led NATU to fight apartheid in education with all they could.

It was not surprising to see PO as the Deputy President of ATASA while still a NATU President.

At ATASA, he worked with such capable leaders and friends of NATU.

PO achieved high marks at NATU as he introduced the brilliant ideas of rewarding the most successful NATU branch with a floating trophy.

He also helped set up a Child Education Fund to help African children survive the struggle of attaining education.

Upon realising that the government was stubborn when it comes to listening and appreciating the concerns of African teachers; PO and NATU planned a peaceful boycott of Bantu Education.

It is only the intervention and plea of Inkosi Albert Luthuli, that made them abandon the boycott plan.

Luthuli felt that African children would be severely hit by the boycott while their white counterparts would benefit.


When AJ took over the leadership role, NATU had undergone a name change initiated by itself.

The new name was Natal African Teachers` Union (NATU) and no longer Bantu Teachers Union.

At the time of his election as president, AJ was the principal, like PO his predecessor, of Lamontville High School.

He was highly celebrated for having helped raise the stature of and he had continued the war left by his predecessor – a war against apartheid education.

During his presidency, it had become tough for teachers in schools and the situation was worsened by the expulsion of teachers by department of education officials who had established School Boards.

AJ and NATU sent one memorandum after another to the Department of Bantu Education and following these memoranda were the deputations to the department from NATU.

The organisation fought with the department on the medium of instruction as the white government wanted it to be isiZulu in Natal up to tertiary level.

The memorandum also addressed the

·         deliberate failing of Standard six pupils despite having passed on the grounds there were limited or no secondary schools for Africans.

·         teachers who were victims of unfair dismissals and retrenchments.

·         discrimination of married and pregnant women

·         low salaries that women were paid.


The department also took NATU to task for financing the legal costs of teachers who were victims of unfair dismissals and retrenchments and the former felt the latter was interfering.

It is important at this stage to highlight the fact that NATU came up with a powerful memorandum that she presented to department in 1966 which was addressing the issue of the conditions of employment for teachers and teacher salaries.

These were raised with the department in a series of meetings but the latter turned a deaf ear to all these.

However, AJ never relented and the leadership of AJ gave NATU high esteem indeed as this organisation became honoured even abroad.

AJ was respected for his leadership and qualities and wisdom even at international level.

A principal of Sibonelo High School when he became a president, Mr Hadebe ended up becoming the inspector of schools.

Though he had the shortest tenure as a NATU president, Hadebe continued without wavering the struggle this organisation was known for.

This, he did with diligence and great commitment and thereafter handed the organisation to another stalwart of NATU, the well-known Mr T.B. Shandu in 1971

Theo, as he was popularly known led NATU as president to greater heights as well.

His fight for teachers’ rights holds both the best and worst experiences.

In 1972, NATU entertained and hosted ATASA’s Golden jubilee celebrations held at Inanda Seminary.

No sooner had NATU concluded the occasion than the government spies in the form of security police started to haunt and harass the members of this organisation persistently. Consequently, many NATU members were incarcerated without sound accusations.

NATU did not fold her arms and watch these gross infringements upon the freedom of her members.

One NATU representation after another was made on behalf of the affected members and the government became hell bent on victimising the organisation even further.

NATU never became desponded and soon after that NATU had to discourage the department from its intention of enforcing Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in half of the school subjects.

The South African community, Africans in particular, joined the resistance which the department`s defiance resulted in what culminated in the students` Riots of 1976 which started in Soweto.

Many innocent pupils lives were lost in the words of the president of NATU himself during this time, “the havoc caused during this time and its reverberations are still felt today.”

Professor Alexandra Jabulani Thembela‘s deep fathoming of education globally and his great insight into teacher organisation politics, no doubt made his contribution in the leadership and achievement of NATU stand shoulder high above all of his predecessors. Female teachers in NATU’s Wing and Early Childhood Education were well developed during the era of Thembela.

An astute thinker, planner and educator, Thembela conceived, accentuated and inculcated in NATU members (using every opportunity that availed itself) more than anything the six principles of the organisation – self-reliance and self-development.

17 years at the helm, he dreamt to see NATU becoming both self-reliant and self-developing and made every effort to anchor this organisation on these principles.

He spent the first 10 years of his 17 year-term educating and evaluating the performance of his organisation.

During Thembela`s term of office, NATU and other well established organisations came under extreme pressure.

In the early 80s, the spirit of multiracialism became popular and close co-operation was encouraged among people of different racial groups in South Africa.

Teacher organisations attempted to establish a multiracial national federation which came to be known as the Joint Council of Teachers` Association of South Africa (JOCTASA).

This body was established in terms of the agreed upon Teachers Unity Charter and NATU participated very actively in the Natal region of JOCTASA called JOCOTAN only to pull out later in protest against the tri-camera parliament which opened the way for coloured and India people to sit in parliament and not blacks.

JOCTASA crumbled ad it was again during the era of Thembela that in the field of unionism, the attainment of parity in salaries for education that NATU fought for finally became a reality.

The introduction of temporary educators to the government`s pension fund and the recognition of primary teachers` certificate became possible.

Furthermore, Thembela`s leadership saw NATU not only increasing her membership to over 20000 teachers but also growing in leaps and bounds.

Thembela had predicted that after the political dust settled, NATU would emerge even stronger in all respects.

Indeed, this self-fulfilling prophecy came true and he delivered this organisation to and beyond the new democratic dispensation not just strong but intact.

By the time of Thembela retired as NATU president, he had added more accolades to it.

He had advocated the policy of investing the finances NATU so that she could conduct her businesses on interest accruing from investments.

The union decided to invest on property whose value appreciated more than the money invested in the bank.

The union bought several properties in places like Clermont, Pinetown Edendale, Eskhawini and Empangeni

Dr. Musa MvIvinywa Aaron Shezi succeeded Professor Thembela who was also his mentor at University as NATU President in 1996.

Known as a skilled negotiator, pragmatic and astute thinker, his activities in the union coincided with Thembela’s era. .

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He joined this union in 1984 when he was a teacher at Ikhethelo High School in Mondlo, Vryheid and soon became the chairman of the Mondlo NATU branch.

This was the commencement of Shezi’s road to NATU`s leadership echelons as he quickly  became chairman of a very successful NATU region in northern Natal; the Vrydump Zone which comprised places like Vryheid, Glencoe, Dundee, Mondlo, Paulpietersburg and Piet-Retief.

Shezi got a golden opportunity of both understudying and working closer to Thembela when he served in his executive as the Vice-President responsible for external affairs since1990. He played the role of NATU’s chief negotiator and strategist on labour, legal and professional matters.

He confessed to have learnt a great deal from both NATU and Thembela in order to lead this organisation to the greater heights of where it is today.

He has had two successful terms of office as NATU president during which he has successfully introduced a business approach to the union.

This approach has paid NATU lucrative dividends in a variety of ways.

These major and tangible NATU valuable gained during Shezi era are perceived by his successor, Prof Thembela as a great blessing to the union and dream come true for this organisation.

Dr. Shezi also earned his much consummate expertise, which he has used for the total benefit for NATU, from his involvement in the various other areas that are related to his work in the union.





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