Letters to the editor: March 18 to 24 2016

Apologise to the students of #FeesMustFall

To those ministers of education and other members of Parliament who served from 1994 to 2014 and who failed to heed the wishes of the people for free education, as contained in the Freedom Charter, apologise to the students of #FeesMustFall.

To those parents and citizens of this country who were not moved when various iterations of the State of the Nation address from 1994 to 2014 did not emphasise a road map to free tertiary education, apologise to the students of #FeesMustFall.

To those peace-loving university professors who failed to see, smell or sniff the roots of the violence that erupted during the #FeesMustFall campaign, apologise to the students of #FeesMustFall.

To those student representative council leaders who were at the helm of student leadership from 1994 to 2014, but who failed to champion free education to the councils of universities, apologise to the students of #FeesMustFall.

To those who benefited from the fight against academic and financial exclusion at tertiary level, yet failed to continue the debates about free education beyond the university’s auditoriums and lecture halls since 1994, apologise to the students of #FeesMustFall.

To those successful people who graduated from 1994 to 2014 and who succeeded in obtaining their final-year results after they battled to get a job and/or start a business because universities withheld their results because of outstanding fees, we salute you; you have done the noble thing by paying your outstanding fees, but apologise for failing to find a solution that would have ensured the avoidance of the arrest of students involved in the #FeesMustFall movement.

To those who failed to pay back the money to the Tertiary Education Fund for South Africa and, later, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, thus denying other deserving students the same equal educational opportunities, apologise to the students of #FeesMustFall.

To myself and other fellow tertiary students and graduates of 1994 to 2014, who failed to make a noise about free education, apologise to the students of #FeesMustFall.

To those students who protest for free education without recourse to violence and damaging university properties, as well as condemning the thuggish behaviour of others during the #FeesMustFall campaign, we salute you.

Could we have avoided the protests and violence of the #FeesMustFall campaign? – Motiki Shoahle

‘We do not condone violence’

I write in relation to your article (Villagers digging for rubies ‘shot and left to die’) and editorial (Tyranny rules the gemfields) about Montepuez Ruby Mining Lda (MRM) in Mozambique.

Having provided a comprehensive response to all the issues raised in your investigation, Gemfields is dismayed that your article still contains significant factual inaccuracies and distortions. Not only does the article ignore most of the detailed information that was provided, but the reporting team also declined offers to visit MRM. As a result, the article presents, in a one-sided manner, preconceived views that simply do not correspond with reality.

Neither Gemfields nor MRM has ever sanctioned or condoned any such acts of violence, and would never tolerate conduct of that nature. The company is proud of its commitment to responsible mining and is determined to transform the industry into one that is transparent, acts conscientiously and benefits all stakeholders, including local communities. We extend once more an open invitation to your team to come to MRM and see the situation for themselves. We are confident they will get a very different perspective. – Ian Harebottle, chief executive, Gemfields PLC

State drug company is a sick idea

The establishment of a state-run company to manufacture pharmaceuticals locally is based on the premise that a state-run manufacturer will be able to produce drugs of the same quality as existing manufacturers at lower prices (New state-run pharmaceutical company to produce ARVs by 2019).

South Africa already has a number of highly efficient, innovative and generic manufacturers of drugs that meet international quality standards. It is crucial that these standards continue to be met because without them treatment failure could occur or drug resistance develop and thereby render an entire class of drugs useless.

The economic consequences of local production are obvious. Like our other state-owned enterprises, such a company will be a drain on taxpayers. It will have no economic incentive to operate efficiently or profitably – as a privately owned company would – because taxpayers will be expected to provide whatever cash injections it requires to bail it out of any financial difficulties.

Predictably, it will ask for “special privileges” and protection from more efficient competitors (both foreign and local), which will not only create uncertainty in the market but also squeeze out a number of highly efficient, innovative and generic manufacturers of drugs.

Instead of trying to produce the drugs, the government should rather create a better economic and business environment for existing local manufacturers and to attract more international companies to invest in this country.

An efficient government does not invest in the production of goods and services of any kind, but leaves that terrain to competitive private enterprises. If it wishes to dispense welfare to the indigent, it can better achieve that goal by purchasing the best-quality goods and services at the lowest prices from privately competing providers. – Jasson Urbach, director, Free Market Foundation

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