As students readied to march to Cosatu House from the education campus of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Parktown, former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini addressed comments that ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe had made earlier in the week.
“When he opens his mouth he spews bile. I mean, that was an irresponsible statement from a secretary general, from a communist, from a father. It must tell you that these ANC leaders and our leaders in government, they don’t have their children in these universities so they don’t care,” Dlamini said.
The former Wits #FeesMustFall leader was responding to comments Mantashe made earlier in the week where the secretary general had said that if he was the minister of higher education and training, he would shut down univerisities to teach students a lesson.
“I’m not the minister of education. Because if I was, my first reaction would be to close them. For 16 months. And open them after six months, and close the residences for six months. After a year, people will know higher education will be important for their future. You are not doing anyone a favour by studying,” Mantashe said.
Dlamini made mention of Mantashe’s children studying in China, where education is free. He said that, upon their return, they would have a future better than that of many poor black South Africans.
“When those children come back, they are going to rule us, because they have the education that we don’t have,” he said.
The latest #FeesMustFall protests come after Nzimande announced that university councils would decide on the fee increment for 2017, but recommended that the increase not exceed 8%. The minister said that households which earn less than R600 000 per annum would not pay the fee increment, but would pay for their fees.
The so-called “missing middle” – students who are considered too wealthy for financial aid, but are unable to afford academic fees – would also be subsidised by government.
Dlamini, however, rejected the minister’s announcement, saying that it helped create division along class lines.
“You ask yourself, now we have been given names from ‘born frees’ to ‘clever blacks’. Today we are being called the missing middle. I am worried about where this country is going, but as Wits and other universities there is no room to negotiate about any fee increase because the protest of last year was clear – it was that of free education,” he said.
He alluded to the wealth difference between those in power and many young black people who do not have financial access to education, saying that Nzimande and Mantashe are creating another generation of working class black people.
“Our children are going to be the maids of the children of the Blade Nzimandes and the Gwede Mantashes – that’s what they are doing. That’s what we are fighting for. Our parents were maids and our children will be maids. And this time our children will be maids of the leaders and the minsisters.”