NEWS & ANALYSIS

Zuma and ANC have mortgaged future of young South Africans – Belinda Bozzoli

DA says ruling party's strategy has been to make universities and not those who make funding decisions, the enemy of students

Jacob Zuma and the ANC have mortgaged the future of a million young South Africans

22 September 2016

When the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, called a press conference this week to announce his ‘decision’ on fee increases for the year, there was a clear and devious strategy at play: to do everything possible to distance himself, the Treasury, President Jacob Zuma, and the ANC, from the mess which they themselves have created. 

Universities have been thrust into the Bermuda Triangle of government indifference, caught between Nzimande’s short termism, Treasury ruthlessness and Zuma’s anti-intellectual contempt.

The ANC strategy has been, from the very beginning, to make the Universities the enemy of the students, so that the collective anger can be wielded not against those who make the decisions about funding, but against the very institutions which have been calling for more funding for more than a decade. It is a desperate act of self-preservation which once again puts the ANC first and the people last.

In a time of crisis, one expects strong leadership and foresight. But what South Africa is witnessing this week is more cowardice and disdain by an ANC government that has abandoned the future of South Africa. They well know that even if Universities are able to implement an 8% fee increase – and Fort Hare has already declared that it will not do so – this will render them unsustainable as institutions. 

The reality is that they don’t care about our Universities, and they have mortgaged the future of a million young people who depend upon them to help them realise their dreams and aspirations. 

At the heart of the frustration that young South Africans are feeling today is the lack of opportunities in our economy. With 8.9 million people unemployed, and a government which doesn’t take higher education and skills development seriously, hopes for a better life are being maliciously dashed. This frustration and anger will only escalate unless we start investing in our future again.  

Irresponsible and reckless comments from the fork-tongued Gwede Mantashe that universities should be shut down for at least six months to “teach students a lesson”, will only add to this frustration. Mr Mantashe would find his time better spent by convincing Jacob Zuma to come out of hiding and to provide the nation with a long-term plan to address the funding crisis and save the higher education sector. 

It is time for the ANC to stop gambling with the future of our country. Their cowardly attempt to pit students against universities and get off scot-free will only prolong the crisis, and assist in the collapse of precious institutions that exist to serve South Africa, and provide the skills young South Africans need to pursue their dreams. 

Issued by Belinda Bozzoli, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training, 22 September 2016