Ditsela Annual Report: briefing

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Employment and Labour

14 June 2005
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

14 June 2005

Acting Chairperson: Mr G Anthony (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Ditsela Presentation
Ditsela written submission
Activity Statistics
Ditsela Annual Report 2003 (
Ditsela Programme 2005 (

The Ditsela delegation highlighted that it was a non-profit organisation which provided support, training and education to the labour movement. Ditsela had been founded in 1996 by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU), the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) and the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA). It was primarily funded by the Department of Labour and international trade unions. The delegation discussed some of their challenges, which included a lack of funding, globalisation, and the changing nature of shop steward traditions. The delegation then outlined some of Ditsela’s programmes, which included offering education courses for union members; offering support to trade unions; undertaking capacity building projects; conducting research and development; and operating a resource centre.

During the ensuing discussion, Members enquired about Ditsela’s funding problems; whether Ditsela had any programmes for unemployed youths; whether Ditsela offered training to shop stewards to prepare for cases before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA); whether Ditsela had initiatives in the predominantly rural provinces; how Ditsela planned to improve its public profile; and whether the courses offered by Ditsela were free to learners.

The Chairperson, Ms O Kasienyane (ANC), was unable to attend the Committee meeting as she was taking part in the International Labour Organisation conference in Geneva. Mr G Anthony (ANC) was elected as Acting Chairperson.

Ditsela briefing
Mr J Malatji (Acting Director) began by noting that Ditsela was a nonprofit organisation that provided training, support and education for the labour movement. Ditsela was founded in 1996 and was originally a joint project between COSATU, NACTU and FEDUSA. It had been created in order to build the capacity of trade unions and the federations. Ditsela was primarily funded by the Department of Labour and international trade unions. Mr E De Klerk (Vice-Chairperson) added that Ditsela was governed by a board, which comprised of representatives from COSATU, NACTU, FEDUSA, the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Added to this, Ditsela had a staff complement of 18 full-time employees.

Mr Malatji outlined Ditsela’s vision and objectives. Ditsela aimed to contribute towards a strong trade union movement by providing it with quality education and support. Ditsela also aimed to assist the federations and unions build their organisational capacity. Overall, Ditsela sought to promote democratic views and critical learning within the labour movement. In this way, Ditsela would be involved in transforming society.

Mr Malatji discussed their challenges, including inadequate financial resources; a decline in the delivery of union education; difficulty reaching the shopfloor; the negative impact of globalisation on trade union education; and difficulties in engaging with new skills development. Another challenge that Ditsela faced was the emergence of new traditions and values amongst shop stewards. Many shop stewards had come to envision trade union activity as a stepping stone to a management career or a career in government. Mr Malatji added that it was impossible for Ditsela to cover all the educational needs of the trade union movement.

Ms S Hamilton (Programme Co-ordinator) discussed Ditsela’s current programme. She noted that Ditsela offered various educational courses for union members. These included yearlong and short courses at a national level. Some of the courses offered included labour law, educator development, leadership development, writing skills, research skills, financial management, Information and Technology training and administrator development. A number of these courses had been accredited by Cape Town and Witwatersrand Universities. Ditsela also had a provincial level education programme. Added to this, Ditsela was undertaking a pilot project to deliver mass based low cost education in the Mpumulanga province.

Ms Hamilton commented that Ditsela’s programme also involved offering support for the federations. This included conducting needs analysis studies for the federations and training shop stewards. Furthermore, Ditsela was also undertaking capacity building projects. These included the "computers in education" project, organisational renewal project and the financial management project. Ms Hamilton noted that Ditsela was producing tool kits, which consisted of handbooks that could be used by trade unions to enhance their general office administration. Additional manuals were being published that covered topics such as how to conduct a meeting, how to write reports and how to write funding proposals. Other important Ditsela programmes included research and development; publications and information; staff skills development; and operating the Ditsela resource centre.

Mr Malatji provided statistics regarding Ditsela’s activities from March 2004 to February 2005. Ditsela had organised 85 educational events during this period. These events had been attended by 1 924 trade union members and labour service organisation employees. Most of the participants had been from COSATU-affiliated unions. Nonetheless, participants had also come from NACTU, FEDUSA and other independent trade unions.

The Acting Chairperson observed that Ditsela was experiencing funding problems. He enquired whether Ditsela had mechanisms to address these problems. Ditsela could not survive without adequate funding.

Mr Malatji acknowledged that funding was a problem. In fact, the Department of Labour had reduced Ditsela’s funding from R7.2 million in 2004 to R6.8 million in 2005. The European Union had also cut its funding for South African labour organisations, which had adversely affected Ditsela. Due to these funding shortages, Ditsela could not provide all the educational and support needs that were required by the trade unions and their federations.

Mr Anthony responded that the Committee would examine this situation. He asked whether the problem had arisen because funding for Ditsela, like funding for most NGOs, was being channeled and allocated through the government.

Mr Malatji responded that Ditsela was advised to approach the National Skills Fund (NSF) for funding. In the meantime, an agreement was brokered between Ditsela and the Department, which stipulated that the Department would provide an additional R2 million for Ditsela’s advanced courses programme. However, Ditsela never received the R2 million partially because the Department felt that Ditsela should not have approached the NSF for funding. Indeed, the Department had stated that Ditsela was attempting to ‘double-dip’ into government funds. However, the Department had originally advised Ditsela to approach the NSF. Ditsela had written to the Minister and had asked him to intervene in the matter.

Mr B Mkongi (ANC) commented that the Committee needed to take Ditsela’s funding problems very seriously. He stated that from personal experience he knew how difficult it was for NGOs to obtain funding from the NSF. In such circumstances it was very difficult for an organisation to perform their functions properly. Prince N Zulu (IFP) added that he too was unhappy about Ditsela’s funding problems. He asked whether these problems had arisen due to the attitudes of the funders.

The Acting Chairperson observed that many trade unions had investment arms. He asked whether these investment arms could contribute funds towards Ditsela.

Mr Malatji replied that the investment arms of the trade unions would not be willing to support Ditsela. Many trade unions already owed money to Ditsela for support that it had provided. It was, therefore, unlikely that they would be willing to provide Ditsela with additional funds.

Mr Mkongi commented that there were millions of unemployed youths in South Africa. These youths, if they became employed, were potential trade union members. Mr Mkongi asked whether Ditsela had any programmes that targeted unemployed youths.

Mr Malatji responded that reaching unemployed youths was a huge challenge. Ditsela did not have any interaction with youth organisations. Some of the young people that entered the labour market were also very hostile towards trade unions. Nonetheless, he stated that he would welcome suggestions on how Ditsela could target unemployed youths. Mr De Klerk added that information on the role that trade unions played in the economy should be included in school and university curricula. However, due to the funding limitations, Ditsela could not roll out such a plan.

Mr Mkongi replied that Ditsela could become involved with the National Youth Service Programme. This would offer Ditsela a chance to interact with unemployed youths. The Youth Commission could also design a syllabus that included trade union issues for the National Youth Service Programme. Similarly, Ditsela could work with the South African Youth Council. The Umsubomvu Youth Fund also had a database of the names of thousands of unemployed youths, which included their interests and residential addresses. Ditsela could use this database to contact unemployed youths that were interested in labour law or trade union issues. Courses could then be offered to these youths.

Mr Mkongi commented that it was unlikely that trade union issues could be included in the school curricula. Nonetheless, Ditsela should attempt to contact student representative councils (SRCs). The youths involved in the National Youth Service Programme could visit SRCs and schools to educate learners about trade unions and workplace issues.

Mr Malatji responded that Ditsela would follow up on these suggestions. However, becoming involved with schools was difficult because most principals did not want an organisation linked to trade unions entering their schools. Perhaps contacting SRCs was one avenue that Ditsela could investigate.

Prince Zulu observed that Ditsela was based in Gauteng and the Western Cape. He asked whether Ditsela was developing any programmes to reach the predominantly rural provinces.

Mr Malatji responded that Ditsela’s pilot project in Mpumulanga was an important step in reaching the predominantly rural provinces. A number of other provinces had already expressed interest in the pilot project. Ditsela was also working with the Workers College in KwaZulu-Natal. Such initiatives would allow Ditsela to reach more prospective students. These initiatives would also allow Ditsela to decentralise its operations and offer courses at a local level.

Prince Zulu enquired what criteria Ditsela used when selecting prospective students for its courses.

Mr Malatji replied that the trade unions decided which members should be enrolled as students at Ditsela.

Prince Zulu enquired whether prospective students had to be members of the unions that were associated with the major federations.

Mr Malatji responded that Ditsela had students from independent trade unions and labour service organisations. Therefore, courses offered by Ditsela were not only available to members of the major federations. Nonetheless, the number of Ditsela students from independent trade unions and labour service organisations was limited. He added that Ditsela needed to be a platform that united workers throughout the country.

Mr Mkongi asked whether the courses that Ditsela offered were free. Mr Malatji responded that Ditsela required students to pay a small fee for the national courses. He added that the fee was less than 20% of the cost of the course. Ditsela charged this small fee in order to ensure that the students did not neglect their studies. This avoided promoting a culture of entitlement. Ditsela, however, did not charge any fee for its provincial level courses.

Prince Zulu felt that Ditsela needed to increase its public profile. Few people were aware of Ditsela or the good work that it undertook. Mr Malatji acknowledged that Ditsela needed to increase its public profile. He added that the Mpumulanga pilot project offered Ditsela the opportunity to improve its public profile.

Prince Zulu observed that Ditsela planned to foster new traditions amongst shop stewards. What were these new traditions? Mr Malatji answered that Ditsela was not looking to foster new traditions amongst shop stewards. It had merely observed that a new tradition had developed. This new tradition involved shop stewards seeing their trade union positions as a means to advance their careers. Shop stewards were also pushing for Ditsela’s courses to be accredited in order to obtain formal qualifications. The new generation of shop stewards was concentrating mainly on workplace issues and was not as politically aware as the shop stewards of the 1980s and early 1990s. Ditsela needed to adapt itself to this situation.

Prince Zulu agreed that trade unions were undergoing change. The actions that trade unions took in the past, such as fighting employers for worker rights and recognition, were no longer needed. He stated that he understood the challenges that Ditsela faced in transforming old style trade unionism into a new form of trade unionism.

The Acting Chairperson commented that shop stewards seemed to be under performing in CCMA cases. In the light of this, he asked how Ditsela viewed the impact that it had on the labour movement. Was it having a major impact?

Mr Malatji acknowledged that generally shop stewards seemed to be performing poorly at the CCMA. Ditsela had noted this and felt that it was necessary to take steps in order to address this problem. Indeed, Ditsela had a CCMA programme for shop stewards that was run in conjunction with FEDUSA. He added that overall, Ditsela’s work had made a positive impact on the labour movement. This was because Ditsela was involved in changing people’s lives by providing skills through its educational courses. Ditsela had also made an impact through its publications. Nonetheless, Ditsela faced many challenges.

The Acting Chairperson stated that the Committee would remain in contact with Ditsela. The Committee would be deliberating on Ditsela’s presentation and would be sending written questions to Ditsela. The Committee would include Ditsela in its future programme.

The meeting was adjourned.


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