It has been a difficult task to try to give a synopsis of the main events, milestones and happenings that would accurately and adequately reflect the life of a visionary, dynamic and energetic man – such as Mr SA Thompson. For the sake of order, we have created headings and subheadings to capture what we humanly could. However, no matter how hard we tried, we still felt that justice had not been done. Yet, within the limits of human imperfection, we present the following story:
Mr Skhumbuzo Allen Thompson, President of the National Teachers’ Union, was born in Newcastle on 7 February 1975 to Mr James and Mrs Catherine Thompson. He was the second born of 10 siblings, 8 boys and 2 girls. He began his schooling at Qedizaba Lower Primary School before proceeding to Sipheni Higher Primary School and matriculating at Sabela Secondary School. He graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree (Honours) from the University of the North, Qwa-Qwa Campus, in 1999 – where he served as Student Representative Council (SRC) President at the age of 19. Mr Thompson’s educational transformation journey began when he returned to Sabela Secondary School at the age of 18 to serve as an educator. His leadership acumen surfaced early and reached beyond the arena of education; he served as Youth President at the General Church of Zion (GMACC) at the age of 17. After qualifying as a mathematics and physical science educator from Qwa-Qwa, he was employed at Lifalethu Secondary School, where he obtained accolades for his best approach in education.
A BUDDING UNIONIST
In the period when Mr Thompson worked at the Branch (Ubombo) and Regional (North Coast) levels, Mr Thompson quickly distinguished himself as a skilful organiser and formidable and shrewd negotiator. His abilities twinkled like an evening star as he put up sterling performances in bargaining for employees’ improved conditions of service.
A MEMBER OF THE CENTRAL EXECUTIVE BOARD
From the position of Ubombo Branch Chairperson and Executive Committee member of the North Coast Region, Mr Thompson was elected to the position of Vice President in 2006. After serving in this position for two years, he was subsequently elected Deputy President at the Elective Conference in 2008. In 2011, two other portfolios were added to that of Deputy President, namely those of General Secretary and Executive Director. In this combined portfolio Mr. Thompson continually strove to attain maximum visibility and presence of the organization in the media and the public eye. Working closely with the erstwhile NATU President, Mr SL Ngcobo, Mr Thompson shone brightly as he went all-out to ensure that people understood NATU’s position on critical matters – both in times of peace and educational crises. Indeed, his efforts bore fruit in that within a short time, the name ‘NATU’ became a household name countrywide.
The year 2018 was a very tumultuous and turbulent year in the annals of NATU as the Union literary came under attack for standing firmly against corruption with respect to some of the happenings in the Provincial Education Department. A number of things took place that adversely affected service delivery at the school level, while immeasurable financial resources were being diverted towards the purchase of materials not directly related to the implementation of the school curriculum. In the process, due to his stand against corruption, maleficence and his outspokenness, Mr Thompson became a target for those involved in the ongoing mischief. He was attacked by unknown persons and shot several times military-style in broad daylight on 11 May 2018, ostensibly, to silence him. However, he managed to outwit the attackers and survived to tell the tale. Nonetheless, despite taking several live bullets on behalf of the Union, which left him in excruciating physical pain and nursing even deeper psychological scars, Mr Thompson remained undeterred and resolute in his fight for righteousness.
MR SA THOMPSON THE NATU PRESIDENT
Mr Thompson was elected to the NATU Presidency on 5 September 2018 at the Union’s Centenary Celebration and Elective Conference and took over from Mr. Siphosethu L Ngcobo who retired as the longest serving NATU President after serving for 18 years in this position. Mr Thompson ascended to the Presidency on the ticket of (a) growing NATU membership, (b) expanding the NATU footprint to all provinces, (c) further consolidating and strengthening NATU’s business arm, (d) strengthening NATU members’ professionalism through ongoing teacher professional development, and (e) improving working conditions (classroom-based and socio-economic) and benefits of NATU members.
Looking at Mr Thompson’s career, three major attributes stand out: passion and professionalism, loyalty and a rare fusion of leadership qualities:
A Passionate Teacher of Mathematics and Physical Science
First and foremost, Mr SA Thompson was very passionate about his job and responsibilities as a mathematics and physical science teacher. In discharging his responsibilities, his primary concern was always to ensure that his learners achieved at their highest potential. His sole purpose was to be of service to others. His dedication, professionalism and commitment to teaching were unparalleled. For this, Mr Thompson will be solely missed by the NATU family and fraternity.
Loyalty to the Organisation and Leadership
One admirable and outstanding attribute of the late Mr SA Thompson was his loyalty to NATU and its leadership. In particular, we recall that at one stage when Mr Ngcobo’s Chief Negotiators and other members of the Central Executive Board sold out and betrayed NATU’s mandate, Mr SA Thompson steadfastly stood behind the President. This helped to affirm and preserve the honour and dignity of the organisation. Through his loyalty, Mr SA Thompson rose through the ranks and never took any shortcuts to the top.
A Rare Combination of Leadership Qualities
Mr SA Thompson was a great leader. Great leaders set forth a vision and live up to it. They communicate their vision and goals with clarity and inspire their teams to meet them. There is always alignment between what they say and what they do. The best leaders are forward-looking, competent, intelligent, and broad-minded. Effective leaders model good human qualities for the people who work for, and with, them. Typically, such qualities include honesty, fairness, straightforwardness, dependability, cooperativeness, determination, imagination, ambition, courage, caring, maturity, loyalty, self-control, and independence. They care for, and about, the people who work for them, delegate responsibility to them, and support them in what they do. They praise publicly and, when necessary, criticise or reprimand in private. It is rare to find all these attributes in one person – but Mr SA Thompson had them all.
His leadership qualities shone through a number of vital leadership challenges. Firstly, integrity was Mr SA Thompson’s middle name. The Oxford Dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Honest people are sincere; they do not tell lies about issues or other people. People with personal integrity always try to do the right thing and “it takes courage to do the right thing whatever the consequences.” Someone who cannot and will not stand up for their own beliefs will definitely not stand up for yours. Cowards are not too different from criminals. Most atrocious crimes are committed in full view of silent bystanders and those who decide to look the other way. No courage usually also means no principles, which will make you expendable for the simple reason that a coward will only do the least effort required and will tug tail and run when true work is required. Cowardice is not one of the most desirable traits in a human being, let alone a leader. Mr SA Thompson’s badge of honour was his courage. Through his courage, NATU grew in leaps and bounds. Let’s honour him for it.
Finally, let’s remember Mr SA Thompson for his empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share in the feelings of another person. One cannot be a leader if one is devoid of empathy. First and foremost, a leader must be empathetic because the primary focus of his or her work is on the wants and needs of the people that he or she leads, especially a leader of a trade union. Empathy enables one to understand other people’s motivations, needs and emotions more deeply. One needs that understanding to serve members. Having empathy allows a person to accurately perceive other people’s needs from their points of view. Having empathy – whether for colleagues, family or friends, comes from focusing on their needs, struggles and feelings. It requires that one opens one’s heart to them and put their needs before one’s own. However, one cannot connect with people when one is feeling worried, defensive, angry, frightened or ashamed about them. Leaders who are not empathetic are the ones who end up working for themselves, and not for the people who elected them and placed them in leadership positions. Mr SA Thompson was such an empathetic leader. We shall always remember and miss him for being such a leader.
Mr SA Thompson’s achievements were many, but we shall only focus on the time when he served as a member of the Central Executive Board. From many of his achievements and efforts to improve the lives and livelihoods of NATU members, we have chosen only the following examples.
Advocate of Worker Rights and Improved Employment Conditions
Child Pension Benefit
He contributed immensely towards Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) Resolution 1/2017 which led to the amendment of the benefits of members of the Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF) – resulting in the renaming of the Orphans Pension to Child Pension. This enabled all the children of the member, up to the age of 22, to benefit upon his/her death – regardless of whether or not there was a surviving spouse and/or that the spouse was providing financial support.
Lump Sum Payments from the GEPF
The notion of government employees accessing portions of their retirement to be paid back at reasonable and affordable rates, was Mr Thompson’s brainchild, adopted by the NATU Central Executive Board. In 2015 Mr Thompson had the vision that accessing portions of the retirement fund would be an important way to alleviate public service employees’ financial challenges. He canvassed this idea among government employees, at large, and secured overwhelming support. Unfortunately, government and officials of the GEPF vehemently resisted and opposed this proposal – prompting many resignations by public service employees who were in financial distress. These resignations could have been avoided had the government listened and given this worthy proposal the attention that it deserved. The employees who resigned did not do so to access better paying jobs but were pushed out as a result of the financial crises they faced at the time.
When government and the GEPF rejected this proposal, Mr SA Thompson led the Action to petition the GEPF to allow government employees to draw lump sum payments from their GEPF savings to allow them to settle pressing financial exigencies while they are still in employment. The NATU Petition was well received and supported by 250 536 workers in the public service even though other unions discouraged their members from signing the petition, simply because it originated from NATU. However, government has now belatedly conceded that this option is a good way to bring financial relief to government employees. Now that government has endorsed and supported this proposal, we still await the fulfilment of the government’s commitment to the concept. Certainly, a quick resolution of this impasse will go a long way to resolving many difficulties faced by public service employees, especially considering that currently many face unprecedented psycho-social challenges, occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated many other pre-existing financial comorbidities.
Medical Aid Subsidy Controversy
For some time, there has been a Medical Aid Subsidy Controversy in the Public Service, pertaining to the Government Employees Medical Aid Scheme (GEMS). In particular, NATU took a very dim view of the employer’s non-subsidisation of employees who were not members of GEMS. As both NATU’s Deputy President and General Secretary, Mr Thompson was very much involved in this matter, to the point of arriving at the decision to take this matter to the Labour Court.
Learners Without Identity Documents
During the 2017/2018 budget speech the KwaZulu Natal MEC for Education informed the Provincial Legislature that there was a significant number of learners in the province who did not have identity documents, and that such learners had not been taken into account by both the National Treasury and the National Department of Basic Education (DBE) in their allocation of funds, resulting in the province being under-funded. This resulted in serious shortages of learning and teaching support material (LTSM) in the schools. With his ears to the ground, Mr SA Thompson was quick to raise this voice on this matter to point out to the Provincial Education Department that this denial of learning materials to the innocent children was a violation of the South African Constitution and a denial of their basic human rights. Mr Thompson fought tooth and nail to have this matter rectified.
The National School Nutrition Programme
The National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) was once a responsibility of SGBs, but the Provincial Education Department took over the procurement process, and vulnerable learners began to suffer while the Department was stuck in court battles fighting for their friends and families to continue getting tenders worth billions of Rand. On behalf of NATU, Mr Thompson quickly entered the fray and challenged the Provincial Education Department about this matter to have it rectified.
Salary Adjustment for KwaZulu Natal Grade R Educators
All public servants received their annual salary increments with effect from 1 April 2017, however, the majority of Grade R educators throughout the country did not receive salary adjustments. Mr Thompson raised his voice, once again, and fought hard to draw public attention to the educators’ plight to have the matter rectified.
Forensic Investigation into Education Matters in KwaZulu Natal
This matter involved the Minister of Basic Education, the Honourable Angelina Matsie Motshekga, acceding to NATU’s demand to immediately intervene in the apparent maladministration of the affairs of KwaZulu Natal Provincial Education Department. The Minister agreed to assemble two teams of expert investigators to conduct a comprehensive forensic investigation into the veracity of allegations of corruption and fraudulent practices. In his combined portfolio of Deputy President, General Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Mr Thompson played a critical and vital role in this matter. The probe was to investigate many of the matters which NATU had been trying to settle with the Department for a long time, but without success. These were:
- Possible diversion of money budgeted for education resource materials to purchase sanitary towels,
- Non-subsidisation of learners without identity documents – leading to shortages of textbooks and stationery.
- Possible violations of the rights of many Section 21 schools, with Function C status – making them unable to order textbooks and stationery, resulting in severe disruptions of the proper functioning of schooling in many instances. Earlier, Mr Thompson issued a statement that NATU was ready to approach the Durban High Court to issue both a court order and an interdict against the Education Department to release the funds and refrain from usurping the powers of Section 21 schools to appoint service providers of their choice.
- Non-delivery of textbooks and stationery by the Provincial Education Department, contrary to the established norms and standards.
- The perennial and longstanding failure of the KZN Provincial Education Department to fill vacant positions on the basis of approved post provisioning norms (PPN) and standards – and also despite the many resignations and retirements.
- Filling of all vacant educator posts, including vacant Human Resource and Finance posts at the Circuit and District offices – such as circuit managers, subject advisors, education specialists, chief education specialists and district managers.
- The failure of the KZN Provincial Education Department to convert all qualified teachers who had duly served the Department for more than 12 months to permanent appointments and making provision for those whose employment had been unfairly terminated while deserving to be reabsorbed on a permanent basis.
- The reinstatement of the scheme to collect money from all those whom it had deliberately or inadvertently over-paid in previous years.
- The issue of safety and security of both educators and learners in schools.
Although the work of the forensic investigation team was interrupted soon after the establishment of the investigation teams, for reasons that were never revealed, the momentum created by the lobby which led to the Minister establishing the investigation teams had a telling impact on the Department’s ‘way of doing things.’ The action disturbed the Department’s mentalities of impunity and ‘business as usual’ in the face of things going wrong in the Department.
The equalization of pay progression
This was during the time NATU was consistently advocating for the equalization of pay progression in education – seeing that only teachers were receiving 1% pay progression after being subjected to the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS). Mr SA Thompson worked hard to compel the employer to agree, albeit conditionally, to the equalization of pay progression across the public service at 1.5% per annum for employees appointed in the public service. The condition was that the implementation would be carried out incrementally.
The adjustment of housing allowance for Public Service employees
At this point, NATU was fighting against the discrimination of employees based on their marital status. The problem had been that for married couples working for government, only one of them qualified for Housing Allowance, while the partner was deemed not to qualify. NATU’s argument was that the rights of the non-qualifying partner had been compromised and trampled upon. So, on behalf of NATU, Mr SA Thompson worked very hard on this matter until the employer finally relented. It was agreed that the payment of housing allowances be delinked from spouses. However, the implementation was to be done incrementally. The delinking of housing allowance payments for spouses of employees on salary levels 1-5 were effected from 1 September 2018 and of employees on salary levels 6-12 with effect from 1 September 2019.
NATU Funeral Scheme
In line with one of the 2018 NATU National Conference Resolutions, the Central Executive Board, led by Mr SA Thompson, secured a Funeral Cover for all NATU members and their families. There was something divine about the timing of this funeral scheme. It was as if the 2018 National Conference had premonition about what was going to happen exactly eighteen months later – Covid-19. Sadly, from March 2020 when our shores were visited by the Covid-19 pandemic NATU, like many other organisations in the country, suffered great losses in terms of human life. However, by this time, the NATU Funeral Scheme was already up and running and it assisted considerably in ensuring that our members and families, received the timely financial support that was needed to conduct dignified funerals. One shudders to think what would have happened had this funeral scheme not been in place by that time.
Strengthening of the NATU Legal Services Section
Strengthening the NATU Legal Services Section was something that Mr SA Thompson’s administration inherited from his predecessor, Mr S.L. Ngcobo. However, because Mr Thompson had worked very closely with his predecessor, and had been part of the initiative from its inception, the task of strengthening and consolidation simply became much easier. So, in a complementary way, Mr SA Thompson in collaboration with the NATU TDI, secured one million Rand to sponsor 125 members to do a Certificate in Labour Law in 2019 and another one million Rand for 120 members to do a Certificate in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution in 2020 – both offered by the University of KwaZulu Natal. The skills obtained by members from these certificate programmes will go a long way in assisting them to represent other members at disciplinary hearings – as well as quell disputes and properly manage conflicts in their workplaces. Additionally, these skills will complement the sterling work being done by the NATU Legal Services Section, stationed in Durban.
The Legal Services Section is an extremely important facility for members. It exemplifies the visionary acumen of the NATU leadership. The legal section continues to fight for NATU members against all forms of unfair labour practice – such as problems of unpaid or inappropriate salaries, transfer disputes, promotion grievances, discrimination and favouritism. Mr SA Thompson was very instrumental in the establishment and running of this office. It now boasts of two, legally qualified lawyers on permanent employment conditions at competitive salaries. NATU members access the services of the legal section free of charge, provided that they are in good standing.
NATU REGIONAL CONFERENCES
Mr SA Thompson was part of the CEB decision to establish regional conferences to enable top NATU office bearers to go to the regions and listen to members’ problems, as well as share their vision for the future. Since their roll-out in May 2017, these regional conferences have since played a very big role in fulfilling their purpose and uniting the organisation.
GROWING NATU MEMBERSHIP AND EXTENDING NATU TO ALL PROVINCES
Mr SA Thompson’s administration has continued with the project of growing NATU membership. In particular, NATU has increased its footprint in Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State, Eastern and Western Cape. This is in addition to the organisation’s stronghold of KwaZulu Natal. Mr Thompson’s belief was that when a Region became too big, members found it very difficult to access union services, and that when members were in distress the response time from union leaders was too long. In such cases, opening new Regions improved the organisation’s agility by allowing it to achieve a shorter time response to members’ problems. This is very critical for the Union’s wellbeing and ultimate survival – and that was what guided Mr Thompson and the Central Executive Board as new Regions, such as Ilembe, were opened.
STRENGTHENING NATU’S BUSINESS ARM
One of the main projects that Mr SA Thompson was very committed to was to find ways to make NATU financially sound through well-calculated property acquisitions and development. Working within the aegis of the Central Executive Board, Mr Thompson led initiatives in this area, especially from 2011 when he added the portfolio of Executive Director to his Deputy Presidency. In the process, NATU acquired a property on Kudu Avenue, Empangeni, which was converted into a Guest House and it has since contributed immensely in saving costs with respect to NATU guests. Four other properties were acquired within Empangeni which Mr Thompson was contemplating merging into one big property to be developed into a hotel with conferencing facilities. NATU also boasts of one other undeveloped property at Ulundi. What was even more impressive was that Mr Thompson was able to secure all these properties largely through sponsorships from NATU’s partners and friends – such as Metropolitan, Old Mutual and Assupol. The development of these properties remains Mr Thompson’s unfinished business. It is envisaged that his vision will be embraced and carried forward by the CEB to be actualised in the not-too-distant future.
STRENGTHENING THE NATU TEACHER DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE
The inauguration of the NATU Teacher Development Institute (TDI) and Conference Centre, on 21 August 2014 was a result of the 2011 NATU 93rd National Conference resolution which highlighted the importance of NATU’s participation in teacher professional development campaigns and programmes – given that professional teacher development is a career-long need. It was envisaged that the TDI would form an important part of the NATU membership’s continued professional teacher development (CPTD) lifeline and trajectory. A truly legacy project. Such was the magnitude of the event that it took the Minister of Basic Education, the Honourable Angelina Matsie Motshekga, to officially inaugurate the birth of the Institute. Mr Thompson, in his capacity as erstwhile Deputy President and Executive Director was very instrumental in the identification and acquisition of the property in Madadeni, Newcastle, which was subsequently repurposed to serve as the nerve centre of the Institute. From the time the Institute began to function in 2017 upon the appointment of a founding Director, it has coordinated and promoted the implementation of many programmes which have contributed immensely to the professional development of members.
STRENGTHENING REGIONS AND BRANCHES
The need to capacitate regional and branch executive members, especially with the knowledge and skills they require to discharge their duties and responsibilities is a real one. Realising this, Mr SA Thompson, on behalf of the Central Executive Board and in collaboration with the NATU Teacher Development Institute, organised a series of face-to-face workshops targeting regional and branch executive committees to orientate them about their duties and responsibilities. These workshops, together with the associated study guide, were very well received and were an eye opener for many participants.
It was one of the objectives of the Thompson administration that Regions be capacitated with offices from which they could operate and do the work of the Union easily. We are happy to report that the roll-out of this operation is underway. So far, thirteen regional offices have been opened.
The resolve to provide technological capabilities for regional offices is one of Mr Thompson’s legacies. For some time, regions and branches have faced the difficulty of compiling reliable databases and preparing reports timeously due to a lack of enabling Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). In carrying forward Mr Thompson’s legacy, recently (28 January 2022) ‘mobile offices’ in the form of laptops were handed over to a number of Regions. It is envisaged that these will go a long way in improving communication between regions, on one hand, and between Regions and Head Office, on another. This was one of the 2018 National Council resolutions and we are truly happy that it has been realised during Mr Thompson’s administration.
FULL TIME SHOP STEWARDS
The work of fulltime shop stewards is vital for the well-functioning of the Union with respect to efficiencies and effectiveness. Accordingly, growing the number of full-time shop stewards, in order to strengthen the work of the NATU Head Office, was also Mr Thompson’s priority areas. However, this process is linked to the growth of the Union membership. The number of full-time shop stewards is revised annually, concomitant to membership figures. From the time Mr Thompson became a member of the Central Executive Board, in 2006 as Vice President, the number of fulltime shop stewards has risen from 4 to 8.
Preparations for the combined 2018 NATU Centenary Celebrations and National Elective Conference were extremely daunting. In effect, these preparations began in 2017 with regional conferences as a way of mobilising and sensitising people about the big upcoming event of 2018. Mr Thompson played a vital role in fundraising to meet the big costs associated with the regional conferences and the centenary celebrations of 2018. He raised sponsorships for most of the items used at the national conference, such as conference bags, T-shirts, golf shirts, meals and accommodation. Mr Thompson was a Master Fundraiser and Resource Mobiliser.
SUBSIDIES FOR DEPENDENTS ATTENDING TERTIARY EDUCATION
Mr Thompson’s fight for teachers and public service workers, generally, to be classified as belonging to the “missing middle” so that their dependents qualify for tertiary education subsidies is another one of his ‘unfinished business.’ He led the call for the appointment of a new Administrator and Executive Board of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to enable this to happen. On behalf of NATU, Mr Thompson, repeatedly raised the concern that public servants cannot afford to pay tertiary education fees for their children, although they did not qualify for the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). This has been one of the many financial challenges that Public Service employees have continuously faced, leading to them accruing unsustainable debts. Mr Thompson always emphasised that these debts were not because such employees were irresponsible, or that they wanted to live luxurious lives. Rather, the debts had been necessitated by the need to meet real and important financial obligations as conscientious and responsible parents.
OTHER UNION MATTERS
Overcrowded classrooms are a country-wide phenomenon in South Africa, resulting in teachers being overworked without much support from circuit, district and provincial education officials. The challenge of overcrowded classrooms made it (as it continues to do) very difficult for teachers to set and mark tests and give feedback to learners on time – in addition to being a recipe for classroom discipline problems. Concerned about the quality of education under such conditions, Mr Thompson’s voice was frequently heard on different media platforms, appealing and demanding that schools become less congested so as to enable effective teaching and learning.
One aspect of classroom overcrowding is inadequate and dilapidated school infrastructure. At one of Mr Thompson’s last official engagements on 31 October 2020 in the presence of the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, he did not miss the opportunity to remind her about the poor and inadequate state of school infrastructure. This matter was always in Mr Thompson’s mind, especially after the arrival of Covid-19 exposed the dire straits in school infrastructural provisioning. When the pandemic required that learners and teachers wash their hands regularly, there was no water at many schools. When schools were required to implement social distancing, many schools could not comply due to inadequate classrooms and school infrastructure. Where this was possible, more teachers were needed but the provincial education departments could not recruit new teachers because they had no money. These matters disturbed Mr Thompson very seriously. We shall always remember and miss him for always raising his voice to have these matters addressed – even when no immediate responses were received from the employer.
RE-EMPLOYMENT OF EDUCATORS AFTER BREAK IN SERVICE
Confusion abounded regarding the employment of educators who once resigned from the system. NATU took the view that it was unlawful for the Department to discriminate against those who had resigned from the system and subsequently wanted to be reemployed. Mr Thompson was very vocal in pointing out to the employer that the Employment of Educators Act, read together with Collective Agreement No. 4 of 2016, was very explicit on the matter of when teachers qualified for reemployment after resignation.
Between 2018 and 2019, NATU’s Central Executive Board offered its members magnificent and amazing giant opportunities to travel to Cape Town for six days. Now President of the Union, Mr Thompson organised what became known as the NATU Centenary Tour to Cape Town – advertised to all members, most of whom had, hitherto, not had the opportunity or privilege to travel widely across their motherland. He did this, knowing and realising that educators worked so hard in their schools that they hardly took time out to de-stress, loosen up and unwind. In all, four ‘tours’ to Cape Town were held on 16-21- December 2018, 18-24 March 2019, 15-21 June 2019 and 21-27 September 2019. All the four tours were very successful and the participants were very grateful for the opportunities.
Following the success of the Cape Town Tour, Mr Thompson embarked on organising another tour to Mauritius to be undertaken in 2020 which, unfortunately, was scuttled by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was hoped that once the pandemic was over and things has normalised, this plan would picked up and implemented
Mr Thompson was an acknowledged community leader who was invited to many events and functions to share his wisdom and serve as a motivational speaker to encourage and promote community development. Some of the functions where he served in this capacity included the following:
- The Bread of Life Ministries Graduation Ceremony, Umlalazi. Congregation – September 2017
- Guest Speaker – at the 60 Year Anniversary Celebration of the Hospital Public Servants’ Association (HOSPERSA), November 2018
- Farewell Message at Old Mutual: Mr A.J. Dlamini, 2018.
Unfortunately, while Mr Thompson was still pushing ahead to fulfil his objectives and the mandate he was given at the 2018 National Elective Conference, his life was sadly curtailed by a heavy bout of the novel Corona virus 2019, to which he succumbed during the night of 3 January 2021 at the age of 45. MHSRIP, eternally. Mr SA Thompson always believed that the greatest leaders were the sincerest servants who served from their hearts. Indeed, not only did he submit himself to the service of others but also, in equal measure, to the service of God. He knew that serving fellow men and women, was a service to God, the Almighty. As things are, we shall never know the heights to which he would have taken the Union, had he lived. He was the first NATU President to pass away while in office. The third of January 2021 will go down in the history and annals of NATU, as a very sad day, indeed. For the Union, the year 2021 will always be looked upon as an annus horribilis.
Let us end this Memorial with the words that he said to first meeting of the Central Executive Board, held on 17 September 2018, following his election as NATU President at the 2018 National Elective Conference:
“We won’t play politics with the long-term future of our children and our country. We will work to get it right. I want us to change because through its education system this country faces huge challenges. They are not challenges you can put in individual boxes; they are complex, they’re interconnected. To deal with them takes hard work, complex research, deep thinking and I want us, the 2018-2022 Central Executive Board to get it right. Our schools are reported to be completely unsafe. I want this Central Executive Board to pledge to the education stakeholders that NATU will do everything possible, in her power, and will use every trick in the book, to ensure that our schools are safe again and that safety of teachers and learners and their dignity will be our priority. That means re-civilizing our society, with school discipline, with strong families, with responsible single parenthood and with cultural change.”