South African Students Congress

SASCO statement on the unfounded, malicious reporting by the Mail & Guardian

20 March 2015

SASCO notes a story by the Mail & Guardian (20 March 2015), "Student leaders in Blade's pocket." This story is nothing but malicious, poorly researched and relies on street gossip. It lacks verified facts and scientific evidence. It also shows the deteriorating level of journalism in South Africa.

The story alleges that SASCO Secretary General Luzuko Buku who serves on the Board of the Council of Higher Education (CHE), and Deputy President Thabo Moloja who has been serving on the board of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) since 2013, have been bought by the Minister of the Higher Education through these appointments. This accusation is not only malicious but also highly ill-informed.

In terms of both the Higher Education Act of 1997 and the NSFAS Act of 1999, national student organizations are required to nominate to the both the Council of Higher Education (CHE) and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board.

It only requires a simple desktop research to find statues that are clear on this question of the composition of these structures. In terms of Section 8(3), it is stated;

"The Minister must, by notice in the Gazette and in two national newspapers circulating in every province of the Republic, and by any other means regarded necessary by him or her, invite nominations for the chairperson and the ordinary members of the CHE from -

(a) the public;
(b) national organisations representing students, academic employees, employees other than academic employees, university principals, technikon principals, principals of other higher education colleges, principals of private higher education institutions, the further education sector, the distance education sector, educators, organized business and organised labour;"

The NSFAS Act Chapter 2 subsection 5(iv) also states, in terms of the establishment of the NSFAS board;

5. (1) Subject to subsection (4), the board consists of-

(a) 13 members appointed by the Minister of whom-

(i) one member must be employed by the Department;
(ii) one member must be nominated by the Minister of Finance;
(iii) one member must be designated by the Minister as chairperson of the 50 board; and
(iv) three members must be nominated by national organisations representing students:

In terms of laws governing higher education in our country, these institutions cannot be fully constituted without national student organizations nominating. This we believe the journalist deliberately ignored even after we drew his attention to this.

SASCO has, predating the incumbent Minister, nominated members of its executive to these important bodies of higher education. We have in the past nominated our former NEC members such as Floyd Shivambu, Mbali Hlophe, Thami Ncokwane to the NSFAS board. We have in the past nominated our former President, Dr Bandile Masulu to the Council of Higher Education. These nominations are not merely invitations by the Minister; they go through the National Political Deployment Committee of SASCO.

The story relies on the opinion of SASCO member and Wits SRC President, Mcebo Dlamini and presents his ill-informed, unfounded opinions as facts. The journalist also relies on one, Raymond Hlungwani (MJ wa Azania), who he projects as an opinion maker in higher education, but fails to tell the truth that this in fact is his drinking buddy. This story in fact, is a setting a tone for the so-called "independent group" supposedly led by MJ.

The story also alleges that the President of SASCO, Ntuthuko Makhombothi's recent trip to Brazil as an indication of SASCO being in the pockets of the DHET. If the journalist would have bothered to do a background check, he would have known that the President of SASCO was part of a delegation of the Ministry of Higher Education to the second BRICS Education Ministers Meeting. This delegation included department officials and university representatives. This was the second meeting after the first one, which sat in France last year, where the department had also invited a student delegation.

This story exposes the sensationalist nature of our current media in South Africa. We find this kind of reporting an insult to journalism. This story is void of any news values or news worthiness. This is the highest form of lazy journalism. Perhaps the Mail & Guardian ought to invest in a Journalism 101 Course for its journalists.

SASCO remains the leading voice of higher education transformation in the country. The track record of the organization remains uncontested and we shall continue to defend and advance the interests of students in our country, regardless of efforts by others to derail us.

It is through the intensified campaigns for Free Education of SASCO that has led to the exponential increases of the NSFAS scheme in the past five years. SASCO has been the first to say that this is not enough; Free Quality Education is the solution to the funding crisis in our country. Last year, it was through SASCO that government had to bring about additional resources, R1 billion, to the NSFAS scheme to address some of the backlogs and historic debt.

SASCO will have its annual Free Education campaign, where will be demanding that the Department of Higher Education and Training introduce Free Quality Education. This years campaign is planned to be the most impactful in recent times, we will be declaring protests in all campuses in our universities and colleges.

SASCO calls on all South Africans, including journalists, to rally behind our call for free education as it is only through intensified mass action that free education will be realized.

Issued by the NEC of SASCO.

For more info contact,

Ntuthuko Makhombothi (President) 071 875 2209

Or

Luzuko Buku (Secretary General) 071 879 3258