Gwede to youth: Let's not fight about Blade
This is the message that emerged after a marathon meeting of the heads of the ANC led tripartite alliance and affiliated student groups in response to the #FeesMustFall protest action countrywide
Alliance leaders met with Progressive Youth Alliance structures including Sasco, Cosas, ANC Youth League and Young Communist League to discuss the call for a moratorium on fee increments at universities across the country.
The meeting was interrupted by students from Wits University and University of Johannesburg who marched on Luthuli House to deliver a memorandum demanding the ANC to put pressure on government to ensure that there are no fee increments.
Over a thousand students marched from their campuses to the ANC’s headquarters and demanded that Mantashe comes down to them to accept the memorandum.
Mcebo Dlamini, a prominent student leader, said the ANC should honour its promises for free tertiary education.
He and other speakers used the platform to single out Minister Blade Nzimande whom they accuse of failing students.
The ANC Youth League in Gauteng, who was part of the protest, have called for Nzimande’s head, demanding his resignation.
This was initially called for by the ANCYL president Collen Maine.
Mantashe said while no one called for Nzimande’s recall or resignation during the meeting, he warned warring factions of the youth movement not to fight about Nzimande.
The Young Communist League has supported Nzimande and called for Maine and the ANCYL in Gauteng to be disciplined for their pronouncements on the minister.
“The YCL and ANC Youth League must meet and sort it out. They cannot have a public spat over Blade,” Mantashe said.
He said Nzimande did not “belong” to either youth formation.
“Blade is not their minister. It is not their business. They are not appointing ministers,” Mantashe said.
He dubbed the call for Nzimande to resign a populist one.
Mantashe also spoke out against some students who called for him and other leaders to sit on the floor when delivering the memorandum.
Initially, the crowd demanded that Mantashe and other leaders come to them from the ANC stage truck they first stood on.
After some resistance, Mantashe went down to the student leaders.
Subsequently, some elements of the crowd chanted for Mantashe to sit down like the rest of the masses of students.
He refused and eventually the memorandum was read out and handed over.
Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini said Mantashe said the demand for them to sit was one to humiliate them.
“We said we are not going to sit down, not out of disrespect for the students but out of respect for our movement,” Dlamini said.
While the ruling party and its alliance came to some conclusion on student demands, the ANC is waiting for President Jacob Zuma to pronounce on the matter on Friday.
He is due to meet with student groups, vice chancellors and the department of higher education to bring about a solution to the fees crises.
The ANC has supported a march to the Union Buildings on Friday by students saying their supporters must join in.