11 December 2011
The South African Students Congress (SASCO) held a highly successful and extremely united 17th National Congress at the University of Free State from 3-8 December 2011. The Congress was convened under the theme: ‘Education is a Site of Struggle—Students First, SASCO to the Front’. This theme is informed by our Marxist-Leninist conviction that education is not a class neutral institution. Congress discussed and took resolutions on many issues in the higher education, further education and training and society in general.
1. Transformation of higher education and further training:
SASCO is extremely concerned about lack of transformation in the higher education and further training sector. Central to our perspective on transformation are the principles of access, success, and redress and curriculum transformation. We will defeat all attempts to turn our institutions of higher learning into exclusive clubs where poor students are systematically locked out. We will at all times maintain our correct principle that education is a right and not a privilege. SASCO will continue to fight against commercialisation and corporatisation of higher education and further training. We demand accelerated redress to dismantle the apartheid profile in the senior, middle and academic staff on our campuses.
The congress has noted the neo-liberal encroachment in the education system of the country. We have noted that this tendency is espoused by an attempt to create cultured worshippers of capital among the student populace. We realised that the country is suffering from a repressive system that does not seek to educate students from broad knowledge produced by humanity elsewhere in the world except by big metropolitan and megalopolitan economies. Anglo-American Trans-nationalism is not only a reality in economic and cultural life of our country but in Education as well and we are determined to fight it till the end.
1.1. On the Ministry’s Intervention in WSU:
The congress welcomed the long awaited intervention of the Ministry of Higher Education through an administrator in the Walter Sisulu University. We hope that the Administrator, Professor Lourens Van Staden, will work well there with our structures in resolving the crisis that threatens to put the institution in the dustbin of history. His first task would be to fire all the Executive Managers that led to the deterioration in the institution. He must ensure that there are no exorbitant fee increments and he must equally ensure that there is no student capping, through the reversal of the implementation of Rule G7. The administrator must accept that he cannot be used as a pawn for exclusion of students.
The congress pronounced itself on the review of the merger of the institution in order to see proper harmonisation. It nonetheless dismissed any views or plans of demerger in the institution as it would worsen rather than solve the crisis in that institution named after our honorary President, Tata Walter Sisulu.
1.2. On the University of Limpopo and UFS Council:
We welcome the de-merger of the University of Limpopo as that merger never made sense in the first place. The logic of the merger itself was standing tall on its head, in the first place. We however call for the Ministry to also rescue both campuses of the university from total collapse since the erosion of academic culture has already started.
Our congress noted with disgust the mismanagement of the University of Limpopo by Vice Chancellor Prof. Mahlo Mokgalong. Prof. Mokgalong’s despotic rule leaves very little to be desired. He runs our university as if it were his personal affair. There have been allegations of corruption and maladministration levelled against Prof. Mokgalong. We are worried that he has suspended some of his colleagues and student leaders willy-nilly. We are extremely disappointed that the Ministry of Higher Education and Training has been silent about this. We believe that Prof. Mokgalong is no longer suitable to be Vice Chancellor of the University of Limpopo and therefore calls for his immediate removal.
SASCO also calls for the disbandment of the University of Free State Council. This Council has failed to embrace and advance the transformation agenda in our non-racial democracy. They continue to lead an institution that prides itself with racism and other backward apartheid values. Since the historic 1994 democratic breakthrough, the University of Free State has deliberately refused to make any significant inroads with transformation.
1.3. On free higher education for all:
We are disgusted at the fact that despite the progressive recommendations in the NSFAS Review Committee Report, free higher education in South Africa remains a pipe dream. We are disappointed that government is moving at a snail’s pace in the introduction of free higher education for all poor undergraduates. We demand our ANC led government to provide free higher education immediately. SASCO will launch the biggest Free Education Campaign in 2012, which will mobilise all progressive forces in society under the banner of free education. We still believe that piece-meal intervention like convention of NSFAS to tuition waivers for final year students will not solve problems facing majority of students who could not even reach that level for financial reasons. We have declared 2012 as a year for heightened mass mobilisation in demand for free quality higher education for all.
1.4. Victimisation of student leaders:
Congress expressed disgust on the growing abuse of institutional governance structures to violate the basic human rights of students, including the crucial rights of association and expression. The Congress also declared war on attempts to change institutions of higher learning into monolithic institutions where the voices of managers are gospel truths. The naked despotism displayed by managements of our institutions to silence dissent through abuse of institutional power remains a great concern. We have recently witnessed instances where our comrades have been subjected to unfair disciplinary processes simply for exercising their democratic right to embark in mass action. We are mechanically opposed to any pseudo disciplinary processes designed to silence legitimate alternative views.
2. Socio-economic transformation:
Congress expressed disappointment that government’s New Growth Path (NGP) and the recently proposed National Planning Commission’s National Development Plan (NDP) are cast in a neoliberal capitalist mode and therefore holds no prospect to improve the lives of the working class through increased job creation, increased social spending on education, health and housing. SASCO rejects the youth wage subsidy as a mischievous attempt to create a two-tier labour market through the backdoor. SASCO calls for an egalitarian development programme buttressed by wealth redistribution through, among other things, nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy and land redistribution. Congress mandated the national leadership to develop a policy perspective to expand on our proposal for an egalitarian development path.
3. The need for an anti-capitalist front in South Africa:
SASCO believes that there is a need to build a broad anti-capitalist front in South Africa. Everywhere in South Africa – in our townships and informal settlements; in institutions of higher learning and in the factories, the working class and its offspring are waging struggles against the neo-liberal capitalist onslaught. The struggles for service delivery; clean water and electricity; against fee increments and financial exclusions in institutions of higher learning; and workers’ strikes for higher wages and improved working conditions all derive from the brutality of the capitalist system and its annihilation of the poor. SASCO calls on the SACP to reclaim its position and serve as a uniting force for these struggles.
4. The Strategic Threat to the NDR:
The greatest threat to working class aspirations remains monopoly capitalism, whose dominance reflects in the structure of our economy. It is our considered belief that capitalism will always operate to reverse any gains of the working class and as such we should be vigilant in defending our gains. Our fight is for the total destruction of capitalism and the building of socialism from its ruins, for that is the only way we will see the realisation of free education. As students we are growing impatient with the class balancing stance of the National Liberation Movement, whereas it openly sees the war declared by capitalism against the toiling masses of our country. Hence congress resolved to lobby for a radical shift in the property relations in our country and thus calls for the nationalisation not only of the mines but all commanding heights of the economy and all monopoly industries.
We believe that the New Tendency and Convenient Communism – which are subsidiaries of capitalism within our movement – pose a significant threat to the National Democratic Revolution. Congress resolved to fight against the New Tendency which hides its reactionary views in revolutionary jargon and perceptively revolutionary activity. We will continue to combat, isolate and with a clear intention to defeat this tendency and its lapdogs who operate as if there is no discipline within our revolutionary organs within the MDM. With the same energy and vigour, congress resolved to fight against convenient communists who do not only pose a threat to the NDR but to the struggle for socialism entirely. We are determined to combat, expose, isolate, defeat and remove convenient communists who continue to abuse working class organisations for narrow upward social mobility. We want to appeal to both these reactionary strands within our movement to not waste their time in seeking an allegiance within SASCO.
5. ANC Centenary Celebrations:
As we go to the centenary celebrations of the ANC in Mangaung we plead for unity and cohesion within the ranks of our movement, which are the fundamental tenants upon which the ANC was founded upon in 1912. We must continue to call an order on factionalism, corruption, patronage, members of members, slate politics and all other general sins of incumbency as we proceed to January 8 2012. The greatest task of the ANC is to manage the contradiction of being a National Liberation Movement, which encourages mass activity whilst being a political party that is leading government. The 100th year celebration should not only reassert the National Liberation aspect of the ANC but it should also reaffirm the class character of the National Democratic Revolution.
The Congress resolved to allow the ANC, COSATU and the SACP to resolve their own internal political matters as they go towards their Congresses next year. We could only wish these fraternal organs united congresses that will not be centred on election. We nonetheless believe that such congresses will elect leadership with integrity, revolutionary discipline and a clear willingness to take the National Democratic revolutionary objectives forward and benefit the downtrodden masses of our people in particular.
6. Combat, isolate and defeat the imperialist project:
SASCO strongly condemns the imperialist project led by the Western superpowers. We, as class conscious students who believe that we can no longer allow imperialist domination led by the US as an empire of profit thirsty multi nationals to continue, resolved to throw our full weight behind the struggles to undermine the US stranglehold over poorer nations. In this regard, we commit to do our part in supporting the struggles of the Cuban people, the Venezuelan people and the many anti-imperialist struggles in the Latin American governments. These struggles continue to give a ray of hope, particularly in a region previously dismissed as the United State’s backyard. The congress condemned the silence of our government on the plight of the people of Swaziland, Western Sahara, Palestine, Korean Penninsula and many other oppressed working Masses of the World. We will engage in a program to force government to stall all diplomatic relations with all oppressor states in the world.
Ngoako Selamolela, SASCO President: 071 875 2224 firstname.lastname@example.org
Themba Masondo, SASCO Secretary General, 079 199 3421, email@example.com