PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs and Extracurricular Development, Mr Gugulethu Xaba; National Chairperson of the IFP Youth Brigade, the Hon. Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa MP; Chairperson of SADESMO TUT Soshanguve, Mr Menzi Zulu; leaders of the IFP, the Youth Brigade and Women’s Brigade; members of SADESMO and students at Tshwane University of Technology.
When I stand in a room like this, with student activists, I am inspired for the future. I was a student activist myself, at the University of Fort Hare. In fact, I was expelled for my activism when we boycotted a visit by the Governor General, and I had to complete my studies at the University of Natal. But that didn’t deter me. I became a lifelong activist, so that now, six decades later, I’m still rattling cages and calling for change.
I am proud to see young South Africans fighting for their future. I’m not talking about the few who have burned down buildings, destroyed property and incited violence. I am talking about the masses of students who are pouring themselves into their studies, recognising that there are no handouts. They know the truth: that the future must be built on the back of hard work.
It is these students that the IFP fights for. We believe that everything possible must be done to help you, as you build. The IFP sees students as the future leaders, administrators and opinion-makers of our nation. So we stand with you in the fight for education. This has always been an IFP fight.
Following the strikes of Fees Must Fall, students are back in their lecture halls. Exams are being written again, and the exceptional talent at TUT is back at the forefront.
Indeed, just last month, we saw a TUT student production win an Ovation Award at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. We’ve seen a TUT music student from Sebokeng in the semi-finals for the 2017 SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition. We’ve even seen two TUT professors being nominated for the Emerging Researchers Award at the “Science Oscars”.
So it’s tempting to think that everything is back on track. But I know that the fight is far from over.
Students still face a myriad of problems as you pursue higher education. Financial exclusion is still a reality. Students are still being chased out of residences, and some are still being told to pay upfront despite NSFAS funding. Here on this campus there is serious problem with student accommodation. There is just not enough space for everyone to stay in res, which leaves some students squatting in terrible conditions.
I know that often your families back home don’t even know of your hardship. They have made sacrifices to send you to TUT, so that you can improve your chances of gaining employment. Unfortunately people often think that when you go and study, it’s a package deal: that everything is taken care of and you are well looked after. But that is not the case. Many of you don’t want to worry your families. You know that there is little they could do to help. So you stay, and you try, and you fight.
I want you to know that the IFP is fighting with you.
What we all long for, what we all want, is for education to be accessible to everyone. We know that education is a right, not a privilege. It is not a commodity that can be priced out of reach for a struggling majority. Education is far too important to a country like ours, with a struggling economy and growing unemployment.
Without education, South Africa’s youth will be disempowered in the global economy. You must be equipped with the tools to change the future.
The dream of accessible education is not an impossible dream. But it will not be easy to achieve. It will take a complete restructuring of our economy, with budgets being cut and reallocated, with all wasteful expenditure being arrested, and corruption stopped.
I have sat in the Cabinets of President Mandela and President Mbeki, and I have served in Parliament for 23 years as we interrogated the budgets of every department. I know that free education has not been possible in the last 23 years. But I also know that no attempt has been made to achieve it.
That is where the ruling party made a terrible mistake. In 1994, when they campaigned for elections, the ANC made a promise that democracy would deliver houses, jobs and free education. It was a promise they couldn’t fulfil, and they had no plan of how to fulfil it. But it became the mantra of the ANC: that they would deliver if you just kept voting.
South Africans have been remarkably patient. But now that patience is wearing thin. We see it in every violent protest. We see it in the declining support for the ANC. And we saw it in the Fees Must Fall campaign. People are tired of waiting because we don’t know when the wait will end. Most of us have started to believe that it never will end, because there is no evidence of a plan to get us there.
I believe that if the ANC were to take us into their confidence and just talk straight about when education will be free, protests would end. If we knew that free education would be progressively implemented and that, by such and such a date, it would be a reality, we could get on board. But we need to see the plan. Empty promises mean nothing. Goalposts shift. We want to know how we’re going to get there.
It is unconscionable that the Fees Commission has taken this long to deliver its final report. Last year we were told that the report would be ready in June. But June came and went. July came and went. Now it is nearing the end of August, and still there is nothing.
The sooner the Fees Commission completes its work, the sooner we can engage a constructive dialogue, to design an economic model that can sustain free education. We need to operate with the facts. It’s difficult not to feel that we’re being placated again and told to wait.
I am proud of SADESMO for the way you have handled this whole saga. I am proud of your fight to get students back into the classroom, to get campuses open, to ensure that exams are written and students graduate. SADESMO has fought on behalf of students in every battle. From the Occupy Higher Education campaign to the fight to get TUT open for registration.
The vision of SADESMO is to better the lives of students, to assist you to achieve your academic goals, and to create a harmonious relationship between students, lecturers, university management, parents and the Department of Higher Education.
In the pursuit of that vision, SADESMO lives the ideals of the IFP. Thus you can trust your student leaders to promote democratic principles, and to practice transparency, integrity and honest leadership. In the IFP we value discipline, knowing that more can be achieved when we work constructively, together. SADESMO is here to serve the needs of all students, and to create unity on TUT.
We need leaders on our campuses who are carrying a message of constructive activism. We need leaders like the young men and women of SADESMO.
I therefore want to thank the students of Tshwane University of Technology for throwing your weight behind SADESMO in the SRC election last year. Here on Soshanguve Campus, SADESMO won 2 seats on the SRC and 15 seats in the student parliament.
Your votes made a huge difference for this campus, because SADESMO emerged as the second biggest party. When no party won a two thirds majority, SADESMO engaged a coalition with the Student Christian Organisation and, when it came to voting, other structures supported SADESMO as well. As a result, SADESMO received 3 portfolios, that of President, Education and Transformation Officer.
For the first time at TUT, SADESMO has led with a Campus President. Combined with the 3 student parliament seats on Pretoria Campus, SADESMO is in a position of influence at this University. That is very good news. It means that something is changing at TUT. The builders are on the rise. The time of destruction is over.
I want to encourage you to build on the good decision you made when you voted for SADESMO in last year’s election. Now you must keep moving in the right direction. Keep growing the IFP’s influence at this university. Get involved and make a difference with people who know how to build.
It’s important that we strengthen a leadership of integrity to stand in opposition to political movements that mislead students. I have always believed that a strong opposition is the best way to challenge deception, dishonest leadership and divisive voices.
More than thirty years ago, while I was serving as Chancellor of the University of Zululand, I told students about the importance of opposing every abuse of power. During a graduation ceremony, I said –
“As a democrat I believe opposition in politics is essential for the wellbeing of the nation. I welcome opposition because without it we do not think as sharply as we would otherwise have to do. And I particularly welcome opposition at a University where young people should be learning how to think for themselves and form their own opinions about politics and the State. But opposition is only opposition if it is honest and democratic. Opposition which is not honest and democratic is merely a divisive force which shames the nation.”
This remains true today.
SADESMO offers opposition that is honest and democratic, because SADESMO subscribes to the values and ideals of the IFP. There is a good reason why SADESMO did well in the last SRC elections. It’s the same reason the IFP did well in the Local Government Elections.
We offer something that is needed right now. Too much is going wrong in South Africa. The IFP knows how to put it right. With the backing of people like you, who want to build the future, impossible dreams become possible.
It angers me that the ANC has made no attempt to fulfil its promise of free education. It’s not good enough to say, “Well, we want to do it, but we simply can’t.” That argument has been used many times before. Let me give you one example.
In the fight to get free anti-retrovirals to clinics across South Africa, the ruling party originally claimed that it would if it could, but it wasn’t possible. In response, the IFP proved that it was. We rolled out anti-retrovirals across KwaZulu Natal, saving thousands of lives by preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids.
Our example that it could be done, enabled the Constitutional Court to dismiss the argument of the ANC that it wasn’t logistically possible, and the Court ordered them to do it.
Today, access to anti-retrovirals is taken for granted. The reduction of mother-to-child transmission is seen as a great government success story. But the IFP was at the root of that victory, and we intend to be at the root of this one too.
When South Africa finally provides free education, the IFP will be able to point out our role in winning that fight. We will do everything we can to see a future in which access to education is so universal that it’s taken for granted.
The fight for your future encompasses so much more. We need to fight to get your basic needs met, because how can you study when your stomach is empty? We need to fight to keep drugs out of TUT, because addiction will destroy everything you’ve worked for. We need to fight for your safety, because too many students are victims of crime, from stolen cell phones to the horror of rape.
When we talk about making education accessible to all, we’re not just talking about money. Students need to be protected and helped. You need to be encouraged, mentored and equipped. You need the support of honest leaders.
There is too much dishonesty from political leaders at the highest level.
Just last week the National Chairperson of the ANC visited this campus and spoke about the ANC’s respect for women and how ready they are to have a woman lead the ANC. But when the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training assaulted a woman in public, the President of the ANC Women’s League ran to defend him, saying that senior government leaders are guilty of far worse when it comes to gender-based violence. As if two wrongs make a right!
So what is the truth? The IFP will find it. Next week, when the President takes questions in Parliament, the IFP will ask him if he’s made any effort at all to act on these statements. South Africans rightly question the commitment of leaders to walk the talk.
Over the past year, you will have watched your student leaders. You will have seen who is honest and who is there to serve. I want to ask you to strengthen good leadership again in the SRC elections on Thursday. Let’s strengthen the influence of SADESMO at TUT, so that SADESMO can challenge those who are not doing all they can to help you.
When you cast your vote in the SRC elections, let it be a vote for SADESMO. But let that be just the beginning. Once you’ve cast your vote, I encourage you to become politically active. Join an IFP branch. Join the IFP Youth Brigade. We are a growing force for good at Tshwane University. I invite you to grow with us.
Thank you for welcoming me here tonight. I salute you as the builders of our nation.