South African Students Congress

SASCO Gauteng Press Statement

YCL SA is not a student desk in the ministry of higher education and training

23 March 2011

The South African Students Congress (SASCO) in Gauteng rejects with disgust the statement (titled YCLSA condemns the reported heckling and booing of SACP General Secretary and minister of Higher Education) released today (23 March) by the head office of the Young Communist League (YCL). This statement is highly uniformed, factional and lacks the elementary factual substance. SASCO Gauteng would like to clarity the distortions contained in the YCL SA statement about what actually transpired during the event, because we were present at the event. The YCL incorrectly state that Minister Nzimande was supposed to address a 'memorial lecture' at the Tshwane University of Technology last Friday, 18 March. This is a factual distortion: the Minister was scheduled to address a public academic seminar on the role of universities of technology in the post-school system.

On the basis of their grossly uninformed sources, the YCL further incorrectly claims that SASCO and NEHAWU members heckled and booed Minister Nzimande. The Minister was neither heckled nor booed, but was robustly engaged by SASCO members and the broader audience. It was the arrogant, patronising and out-orderly engaging manner on the part of Minister Nzimande which fuelled a lot of discontent particularly from SASCO members. In the beginning the Minister thought we were some anti-intellectual hooligans who lack the ability to engage. This led him into a snooty rampage of undermining our intellectual capacity, insinuating that our SASCO national leadership did not do any research before drafting the Memorandum that we handed to his department earlier on that day. What angered SASCO most was the insinuation by the Minister that the SASCO national leadership was incapable of leading and that the statement that the Memorandum we submitted was conflicted, un-researched and illogical. Minister Nzimande made outrageous statement which left us many of us wondering whether this was a Minister deployed by the revolutionary ANC.

When asked about the absence of students in the thousands task teams in his department, the Minister unashamedly said it was not a role of students to be in task teams. This outrageous logic could be used to argue that it is not the role of students to be represented in the structures of our institutions of higher learning, such as Senate, Council, University Forums even to have the Student Representative Council (SRC), simply because it is not the role of students to sit in structures where issues which affect them are discussed. We felt that this was a tacit call for a passive and submissive student in all institutions of higher learning. We felt that this was at odds with the ANC and its government's principle of consultative leadership and the maxim that 'Together we can do more'. As the dominant stakeholder in higher education nothing about us can be done without us. Minister Nzimande must know that he will not succeed in his agenda to demobilise students.

Minister Nzimande was not only extra-ordinarily arrogant in approach but extremely emotional and irrational in his engagement with students and staff members. To add salt into injury, once realising that we were not what we were in his mind-i.e. anti intellectual political hooligans-the Minister was so embarrassed that he begun telling us that he did not have time to engage us further. At this stage the Minister had promised to allow a second set of hands from the audience, including SASCO members, who were prepared to deal with the issues at hand. But this could not happen as the Minister, with an egg on his face, decided to unceremoniously leave the discussion. It was the behaviour of the extra ordinarily arrogant and intellectually haughty Minister Nzimande which led us into consistently calling him into order, not booing or heckling as the YCL incorrectly charges.

What surprises us now is the uncritical defence of Minister Nzimande by the YCL SA head office. YCL must appreciate that we engaged Nzimande as the Minister of Higher Education and Training, not as a leader of the South African Communist Party. This uncritical defence by the YCL is not surprising because, in reality, the YCL has been turned into a political machinery for personal defence of a single member of the South African Communist Party, Blade Nzimande. We refuse to be taught manners of engagement by YCL because it is in the YCL, largely because of suppression of alternative perspectives, where booing and heckling is the order of the day. We refuse, consciously, to accept the request by the national leadership of the YCL that we 'come out strongly to condemn these actions'. We in turn would like to humbly request the YCL SA to condemn the extra-ordinary arrogance and the intellectual haughty behaviour of Minister Nzimande.

SASCO Gauteng is extremely disappointed at the call from the YCL SA that TUT management 'swiftly take action against the culprits just as they did when former president Thabo Mbeki addressed and a student caused similar disruptions'. This is cheap and childish politicking of the worst order. SASCO did not cause any disruption, but only engaged the Minister who ran away from the discussion he agreed to. We plead not guilty to any disruption. If engaging in discussions is a crime, then we are guilty. The YCL head office must understand that its wrong politics of abusing organisational bureaucracy to expel and suspend its members does not and will never find resonance in all spheres of society. The management of TUT will not subscribe to your Stalinist politics of always wanting to 'deal' with people who hold different perspective from those you hold. Expulsion, suspensions and muzzling of alternative perspectives is your exclusive historic task. We appeal to the YCL to focus on leading the popular struggles of the poor and the working class, and resist being used as a barking dog for individuals.

Issued by the SASCO Gauteng provincial office

Provincial Chairperson
Themba Masondo
079 199 3421 or masondothemba@gmail.com