Hon Mrs Nj Nkwanyana MPL, KZN Legislature
I would like to commence the debate on the IFP motion on the Fees Must Fall protests and its effects on the future of our country by refreshing our minds of the Resolutions of the ANC's 53rd National Conference held in Mangaung on 16 December 2012.
One of the Resolutions dealing with Basic Education stated:
There is general agreement that education has to be protected from disruptions.
- Disruption of schooling through industrial action and service delivery protests impact negatively on the stability of schools and the quality of education.
Therefore resolves that:
- A Presidential Commission be established to review the remuneration and conditions of employment of education and health professionals and make recommendations on salary adjustments and wage increases in a manner that protects education and health as national priorities.
- The Commission commences with health and education because they are APEX priorities; and this will set up the benchmark for all other sectors.”
As the IFP we agree with these resolutions in certain respects, such as
1. Education has to be protected from disruptions
2. Education should be a national priority
3. Education will set up the benchmark for all other sectors
In other words, Madame Speaker that conference of the ANC was essentially agreeing with the IFP’s policy on education because we have always believed that education is the cornerstone of any prosperous nation.
Allow me to remind this House of what the Mangaung Conference resolved on the issue of Implementing free higher education for the poor in South Africa.
- Significant strides have been made in finalizing the policy on free higher education to all undergraduate level students from for the poor and working class communities for phased implementation from 2014.
- A draft policy on Free Higher Education has been completed,
Therefore resolves that:
- The policy for free higher education to all undergraduate level students will be finalized for adoption before the end of 2013.”
Madame Speaker, our students at institutions of higher learning heard what the ANC’s Mangaung Conference had resolved and saw hope for the future. Now three years later and with no relief to their financial challenges in sight, they have resorted to protest action that has seen violence, destruction of public property and mayhem taking centre stage.
The FeesMustFall campaign first started nationwide in October last year. The movement was re-ignited last week after Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said that universities must determine their own fee increments for the 2017 academic year and placed a cap of 8% on increases and stated that poorer students would not be affected. Students found this inacceptable and renewed their cry for free tertiary education.
I must make it clear from the outset that the IFP supports the student’s cry for free education but we do not support the destruction of property and violence of any sort.
In embarking on such protest action, students are asking for what the ANC as the ruling party has committed itself to providing. But they now see that they have been lied to. What we must understand is that our students are intelligent and they well within their rights to question broken or un-kept promises. When those in authority make promises and do not honour those promises, people will revolt and this is what we are seeing now at our institutions of higher learning. Our students have lost patience and are resorting to the same methods that the ANC used to unseat the apartheid regime. Taking to the streets in violent protests and destroying public and private property was the order of the day pre-1994 and now such actions have come back to bite the ANC-led government.
Madame Speaker, in a media statement entitled BEFORE FEES FALL, RESPONSIBILITY MUST RISE
IFP Leader, His Excellency Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP wrote:
“When I think back to the June 1976 students uprisings, I remember clearly how the ANC urged students to destroy schools as a way of protest. I warned them against this strategy, cautioning that once it became inculcated in the minds of the population, it would be impossible to reverse.
But they forged ahead. The children who destroyed school buildings were lionised as heroes, and the stoning of police was hailed as acts of bravery.
Thus one generation taught the next.
Now this generation wants the “old guard” to step aside so they themselves can correct the wrongs of the past. The difficulty is that, without education, it is well-nigh impossible to leverage positive social transformation.
Education remains the key to freedom and progress.”
As I said earlier, the IFP does not support any action that leads to the destruction of property and undermines law and order. It is unacceptable that it now appears that anarchists and opportunists have joined the student’s protests and have shifted attention away from the real issues.
Over a week ago the cost of damages sustained by the university sector in the last year due to student protests was estimated to have exceeded the R600 million mark. This figure has since increased and could be close to R1 billion.
The challenge is now for the various campus administrations to find the money to repair and replace damaged property whilst grappling with the ongoing protests, safeguarding its property and saving the academic year.
Whilst there is concern about the 2016 academic year, there are also fears about the 2017 intake of students if the 2016 academic year is lost at certain campuses. We can only imagine what is going through the minds of our matriculants and their parents when they see what is happening at campuses around the country. The Inkatha Freedom Party calls on the Minister of Higher Education and the government as a whole to make every effort to stabilize the tertiary education sector through dialogue and negotiation.
Madame Speaker, our students are sending a clear message that they are fed up with waiting for this government to make good on its promises. Their actions tell you, as the government of the day not to make promises you cannot deliver on. It clearly tells you as the political party in power not to pass resolutions that look good on paper in the hope that it will fool people. Our students are intelligent and will be fooled by catchy slogans and empty promises anymore.
This happens when people see that its government is not fulfilling its promises while state coffers are being looted for the personal gains of those who are politically connected.
Public property, be it roads, footpaths, buildings etc. are seen as someone else’s property and hence easy target for one to destroy. This mind-set is still prevalent in society. It make us wonder what could be the level of education of those responsible for acts of vandalism and looting. I am extremely worried and even fear for the future of our country if the perpetrators of such crimes are educated youths. So if the future leaders of the country condone acts of vandalism and have no guilt of destroying public property then, I don’t know what kind of future is in store for the country.
The question that still begs an answer is: why this liking among young people for destroying public property? What is so stylish about destroying public property or how can an act of vandalism become a patriotic act? Or are we still of the opinion that government is the authority in a distant land which governs us against our will hence, the property or anything that has to do with the government is something that is against us. I think this is a common attitude shared by the general public because the public in general or the pressure groups in particular always remained tight-lipped whenever such incidents are reported.
The Inkatha Freedom Party is concerned about the government’s ineptitude not to respond fast if people are raising their concerns. We expect government to better engage with communities on vital societal matters to avoid damage to property and other infrastructure. There is a need to encourage people to find new ways of expressing their concerns so that their actions do not result in a negative impact on other rights‚ such as a right to basic education.
The IFP is not surprise to see that the ANC led government has failed yet again to fulfil its promise of free education as it has failed to eradicate corruption. The ANC is always a failure in meeting its promises it makes to the public. While it would be fool hardly to claim that the battle to eradicate corruption is becoming a war, it is fair to say that corruption in South Africa is a systemic problem and addressing ethics alone is not sufficient to tackle the problem. There is a saying that violence begins in the mind.
But the IFP can safely say that student protest politics is to be cherished. It is a time for students to really express what they believe in and stand for, while growing up in a learning environment.
Of course this does not detract from the fact that these protests may get out of hand and elements within the student groups may want to resort to violent behaviour. University administrators should certainly learn to negotiate rules governing protests action with student leadership and have this in place ahead of any protest action. This will contribute to minimizing the groups that wish to pursue criminal interests or demonstrate behaviour that would ordinarily be unacceptable to society at large. Above all administrators should learn to engage and keep the channels of communication with protesting students and their leaders open.
Deliberately retrogressive measures in the higher education field are failures of government. It is not surprising that some students may invoke the right to protest but turn a blind eye to the stipulation that the protest must be conducted peacefully. Most of us champion those aspects of the Bill of Rights that favour us and oppose parts we believe to be to our disadvantage. It would not be easy for the state to justify such retrogressive measures in the higher education field, given the fact that the auditor-general has pointed out that billions of rand have been lost by the state to maladministration and corruption over the past 15 years. To blame the constitution for what are essentially various failures of governance is a bit like blaming an umbrella for the rain.
I thank you,
Mrs Ncamisile Nkwanyana
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