Letters to the editor: April 17 to 23 2015

Sasco should be applauded

It is disturbing to read an article in the Mail & Guardian titled Student leaders ‘in Blade’s pocket’. The article is moving in the same direction as the articles accusing the leaders of the Cosatu labour federation of being too close to the ANC. It argues that South African Students Congress (Sasco) leaders are lapdogs of the ANC because they are appointed to serve on state councils and boards. It further states that Sasco has marched for years demanding free education but Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande doesn’t take them seriously.

These shameful accusations show a lack of knowledge of our democratic institutions and Sasco’s strategic perspective on transformation.

The issue of student leaders serving on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme board, for instance, is mandated by law through the NSFAS Act (1999), and many student leaders have served on that board. The strategic participation of Sasco in higher education’s landscape led to the formation of the South African Union of Students in 2006 and the 2009 ministerial review of NSFAS by the minister of higher education.

The ANC’s view on the role of student leaders in the struggle for access to education is well known, dating back as far as the ANC’s 1997 conference, which resolved to “encourage the management of [tertiary education] institutions to enter into discussions with student representatives to find mechanisms for dealing with the payment of fees, to call on all students who can afford to pay fees to do so, and to explore possibilities to eliminate the need for financial exclusions and to urge government to maintain or increase the level of funding to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme”.

The Freedom Charter doesn’t mention free education for university students. It says “education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit”.

It is therefore the work of Sasco and its progressive allies that must be applauded, instead of being used for populist attention-seeking. Before Nzimande was appointed, at the Polokwane conference, the ANC resolved to progressively introduce free education for the poor up to undergraduate level, and to put further education and training colleges at the centre of a popular drive to transfer skills to our people. It was resolved that these institutions would be provided with more resources, and that dedicated bursary schemes to popularise and subsidise attendance at technical and vocational education and training institutions should be scaled up.

The Freedom Charter says: “The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace.”

Hence, the immediate task is to support the call for a forensic audit of student financial aid and to make sure it enables our government to see where its resources are going and to successfully implement the new national financial aid system to enable a fee-free education, as resolved by the ANC at the 2012 Mangaung conference. – Sive Madala Gumenge, NSFAS

Nigeria, a superpower? Never

The article by Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Nigeria will be Africa’s first global superpower, generally reflects accurately on the analysis published by the African Futures Project – with one vital exception.

Its headline and first paragraph create the impression that Nigeria could become a global superpower. This is incorrect. We calculate Nigeria could, by 2040, have about 3% of global power. We used a new power index including so-called soft-power attributes; other indices come to roughly the same conclusion.

Three percent of global power would not qualify for the standard cut-off point of so-called “middle” powers. By global standards Nigeria will remain a minor player. Here the article misrepresents our finding to confuse population size with power. By 2040 Nigeria will have the fourth largest population globally; a far cry from being the fourth most powerful country.

The paper is called Power and Influence in Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa; there is a video: issafrica.org/futures/papers/.

Africa will stay marginal unless it can affect meaningful integration, comparable to or deeper than that of the European Union. This century will belong to China, the United States and eventually India, but not (yet) to Africa. – Jakkie Cilliers, executive director, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria

Vavi isn’t Jesus but all hail St Daswa

I would like to register our regret concerning the Zapiro cartoon about Cosatu’s former general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, being crucified, and his possible “resurrection and a groundswell of support”.

The cross of Jesus and his resurrection are central to the Christian faith held dear by the majority of South Africans. Demeaning them by comparison to the wranglings in the Cosatu leadership is quite distasteful.

On the other hand, we would like to thank you for a wonderful article on Benedict Daswa in the same edition (A reminder that saints walk among us).

He is the first layperson from Southern Africa to be proclaimed a “blessed”, and we will celebrate him on September 13 at Thohoyandou Stadium, Limpopo. – Father S’milo Mngadi, communications officer, Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Pretoria

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