Sasco lashes out at education reshuffle

Deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana is sworn in. (GCIS)

Deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana is sworn in. (GCIS)

This is the view of country’s largest student body – the South Africa Students Congress (Sasco) – who on Wednesday expressed their “dismay” at the appointment of Manana, whom they say would only become a liability. The student body will seek an urgent meeting with Zuma to express its disappointment on the matter.

“How on earth can our ANC-led government appoint such a person [Manana] with no track record on issues related to education, let alone higher education and further training in particular,” said Sasco in a statement signed by its president Ngoako Selamolela and secretary general Themba Masondo.

Before his appointment, Manana served as a member of Parliament. He also serves as a member of the ANC Youth League’s national executive committee.

While Sasco said it had no problem with Manana being appointed as a deputy minister, it stressed that it did not have “any reason to believe that he was up to the task of being a deputy minister of such a complex and strategic department”.

Sweeping changes
Zuma on Tuesday announced sweeping changes to his Cabinet including the appointment of five ministers and four deputies to new portfolios and the axing of national police commissioner Bheki Cele.

In a surprise move Zuma promoted Manana, a former Sasco leader, to the crucial portfolio.
He replaces Hlengiwe Mkhize, who was shifted to the parallel economic development portfolio.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday, Manana poured cold water on these concerns. He said both his political experience and career in Parliament, where he served as ANC whip for the governance cluster – a senior position which requires the official to ensure other MPs toe the party line – have armed him with the skills and capabilities to do a good job.

“It’s really an honour and an indication that South Africa, the ANC and president Zuma appreciates that the world is becoming younger and that young people have a role to play in shaping the future of the country and to ensure good delivery directed at the poor and youths,” said Manana. He said he intended serving with diligence and respect.

Not appeased
Sasco was not appeased at Zuma’s choice.

“We do not believe that Mr Manana will help us in dealing with the plethora challenges in the higher education and further training sector. With all due respect to the erroneously appointed deputy minister, we are not convinced that Mr Manana has the capacity to diligently deliver in this department,” said the congress.

Because Manana is seen as a political rival to Malema– who wants Zuma to be replaced by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe – some have interpreted his appointment as Zuma rewarding those opposed to the expelled youth leader.

Some in the youth league have also questioned Zuma’s motives at promoting Manana. They said it appeared that Zuma rewarded members of the youth league who defied the collective. In Zuma’s second Cabinet reshuffle, in October last year, he appointed expelled youth league NEC member Stella Ndabeni as deputy minister of communications. Ndabeni fell out with the youth league after she colluded with Malema’s political rival, former league leader in Limpopo, Lehlogonolo Masoga, in plotting against Malema and his allies.

In April this year Manana faced the youth league’s wrath when he broke ranks with the NEC. Following the first NEC meeting after Malema was temporarily suspended from the ANC for his comments that Zuma was a dictator, Manana stated publicly that the youth league resolved that it would only support their embattled president until the national appeals committee ruled on the temporary suspension and not until the end of his term.

The league’s deputy president hit back, charging that Manana’s comments amounted to ill-discipline and was a distortion of the decision to support Malema until 2014, by the collective NEC.

Manana was then reported as having said that he stood by his comments. Although he remains a member of the youth league, Manana is viewed as a traitor by some of his colleagues aligned to Malema.

Strained relations
Manana’s appointment by Zuma is likely to further strain relations between Sasco and the department of higher education. Sasco – which forms part of the ANC alliance’s progressive youth forum – has previously expressed their dissatisfaction with Nzimande’s performance.

Last week Sasco and the youth league released a joint statement. They slammed the ANC’s discussion document on education as “simply a cut and paste of progress reports of the government’s education departments” and as lacking vision.

“We are extremely worried that there is no concrete and coherent plan on how free education is going to be progressively realised. We reaffirm our call for free quality and compulsory education until undergraduate level,” the statement read.

The organisations also called for the abolishment of Seta’s – which fall under Nzimande’s department – because it had been “reduced into cash cows for private companies and not so different from the youth wage subsidy which we uncompromisingly reject”.

In its Wednesday statement, Sasco said it intended approaching ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe to assist in securing a meeting with Zuma in a bid to convince the president that the appointment was “not only mistaken but will go a long way in frustrating the government’s efforts in dealing with the many terminal and complex challenges in the post-schooling sector”.

“We will convey our conviction that Mr Manana will definitely be a liability in our efforts to transform higher education and further training,” said Sasco.

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