SASCO PRESIDENT ADDRESS ON THE OCASSION OF THE RIGHT TO LEARN CAMPAIGN-KLERKSDORP-11 MARCH 2022
Comrades, today we gathered here in Matlosana to affirm one of the most imperatives of human rights in the world. The right to learn! This is one of the many rights the apartheid government denied many of our parents. Part of the reason apartheid was so appealing to the Broederbond (a secret society of Afrikaner Nationalists committed to securing and maintaining Afrikaner control over important areas of government) was that natives would be given an inferior form of education. It is for this reason Hendrik Verwoerd’s National Party government implemented Bantu Education.
An odious education system designed to relegate black people to the periphery of South Africa’s economy. This is why during apartheid it was extremely rare to find black doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, scientists, and many other prestigious qualifications. We must never forget that the Broederbond was firmly entrenched at the much celebrated Stellenbosch University. We say these things not because we are bitter about the past. But, to understand our history of oppression as well where we currently are.
Having said that, the 1994 democratic breakthrough was a catalytic moment in the history of South Africa. The ANC won the 1994 election by a landslide to become government of a new South Africa. Our beloved global icon Comrade Nelson Mandela became the first black president of a democratic South Africa. He and the ANC came with the effective promise of creating ‘a better life for all.’ This meant that the new democratic State had the unenviable task of changing the lives of the formerly oppressed.
This entailed that the provision of free quality education, better healthcare, job-creation, provision of houses, water & sanitation, provision of electricity in township & rural areas, poverty alleviation, and reduction of inequality are part of a plethora of socio-economic ills the ANC government and remain top on the country’s development, and to reverse the frontiers of underdeveloped, skewed spatial planning, inequality and poverty.
A lot has been done since the 1994 dawn of the democratic sun by building social contract, compact and impact by forging collaboration ad partnership key stakeholders and progressive forces of the left of the South African Communist Party (SACP), the Congress of the South African Trade Unions (COSATU) with the ANC as a leader of the Alliance.
This is the type of unity the student movement forged with the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) under the leadership of Peter Mokaba and the Congress of the South African Students and the leadership of Ephraim Mogale, and many other progressive youth and student organisation who went beyond the enemy lines, paying the ultimate price and detained, to defeat the monstrous apartheid system and to annihilate the monstrous apartheid establishment and its tentacles.
It was a struggle of unity in purpose. A Struggle for the creation of a National Democratic Society based on equality, freedom and justice. 1994 was not a gesture as some in the neo-liberal utopia would want us to believe. This was a product of a resilient and unwavering commitment to eradicate apartheid and its vestiges.
A lot has been done since 1994. The ANC government had provided millions of houses, electrified millions of homes, universal and quality healthcare, and a free higher education led by an edifice, a revolutionary giant and a colossus, the South African Students Congress. Notwithstanding these massive achievements a lot still has to be done on all fronts to change the face of society for the better, to deepen democracy to fight crime and corruption, to build a resilient economy, job creation, poverty eradication and to fight the monster of racism and gender based violence. And all forms of abuse and social maladies designed to derail the National Democratic Revolution.
This is the new form of the revolution. This will not come free like a biblical manna. It needs a new cadre, a new vision, a new commitment with a resolve to take up the cudgels against any hurdle and impediment that stays in the trajectory of development and change. That cadre resides in the youth of the country, and in the student movement as a breeding ground for future leaders with intellectual, theoretical and ideological wherewithal to lead this new form of revolution.
THE RIGHT TO LEARN
Comrades and friends the purpose of today is to deepen and sharpen, and to give meaning and importance of the right to learn in the context of universal and unfettered access to education, and education as an inalienable right.
Even when the ANC was in exile, education remained a key priority, with focus on the development of young people. In furtherance of this objective OR Tambo, President of the African National Congress at the time declared that “a country that neglects its youth neglects its future”. It is our forebears who defined the youth as the cutting edge of the revolution. This still prevails today, and is more urgent in view of the pressing challenges besieging society.
In our midst we possess such qualities a d needs to consolidate our intellectual arsenal as we advance the revolution. In mourning we lost one of the sharpest leaders of the student movement, SASCO’s President, the late comrade Mandla kaMabuza. As our flag weeps and look upon us in deep mourning let all us rise to observe a moment of silent and to pay our tribute to a fallen giant.
Thank you and may his revolutionary soul repose in peace.
Even in exile the ANC unequivocal on the need to educate the South African population. This is because all developed societies used education as a key aspect in their development and growth. The most perfect example is how the East Asian tigers consisting of South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong managed to grow their economies. The four aforementioned countries made education the apex priority for their growth and development.
Consequently, they managed to grow their economies at such a rapid rate. Once again this proved the value of investing in education when a country seeks to grow its economy. The ANC government was acutely aware of these developments and also sought to use education as a synergist for development in South Africa.
Comrades, the ANC government has made significant strides in this regard. Since 1994, the number of black graduates has increased exponentially. The number of black professionals has also increased drastically. This is a massive feat that must be acknowledged and celebrated.
Admittedly, a lot more still needs to be done. The appalling unemployment rate is testament to this fact. According to Stats SA, our current unemployment rate stands at a shocking 34.9%. What compounds this is that this unemployment rate is largely found in black communities. It is black young men and women who cannot find jobs. However, many black young people are also graduating. It is normal to see black graduates begging for jobs in the streets.
This is dehumanising and cannot be accepted because black young people are desperate for jobs even though they have obtained the necessary qualifications. Juxtapose this reality with their white counterparts and one gets to see South Africa’s racial inequalities laid bare. Very few white people are unemployed. In some cases, unqualified white people are managing many of these highly qualified black professionals. At skewed salaries, perpetuating an equal society, and widening the inequality gap.
Comrades these realities are not imagined or just seen in statistics. It is the lived reality of most young black people in South Africa. And the excruciating pain they had to endure every day, living under the bead line, in squalor, in shacks and far from the cities.
Even though others are graduates they are still subjected to this humiliating reality. SASCO calls on the government to come up with solutions to this crisis which has the potential flare up in unimaginable ways. The recent budget tabled by the Minister of Finance, Mr.Enoch Godongwana does not really deal with the aforesaid issues. Instead, it merely scratches the surface whilst being heralded as an exceptional budget by the business community.
He did not mention anything about scrapping historic student debt, and most importantly did not mention how government would introduce free education even though this is said to be government policy.
Students still have to pay for fees and most of these students depend on National Student Financial Aid Scheme to fund their education. As SASCO, in strenuous and stern words we categorically state that free education is non-negotiable. It is an imperative which must to be fulfilled if the country was to move forward.
Section 29(1) of the Constitution contains the right to a basic education and the right to a further education; and to further education, which the State, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible. Therefore, it is government’s constitutional responsibility to ensure that free education becomes implemented.
President Mandela was aware of the importance of education when he said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
A NEW STUDENT: STUDENT LEADERSHIP AND THE STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE COUNCILS AND THE PROGRSSIVE YOUTH ALLIANCE
Earlier in the our discussion and statements , mention was made of a need to re-orientate the student movement to introduce new critical thinking based on creativity, possession of the revolutionary theory and ideology to navigate complex hurdles. It must be admitted that conditions have changed since the advent of the student movement, each epoch fraught with its unique intricacies and dynamics.
This requires a new student with a new creatve thinking and vision learning from the past experiences, thinking shaped by inquisitiveness, probing mind and scientific knowledge.
This new student exists within communities ravaged by poverty, abject poverty and inequality. And a labour market incapable of absorbing graduates, accounting for the high rate of unemployment and turnover. The future is hopeful but bleak with graduates accepting jobs unrelated to their trade to remain within the job market, with paltry wages whilst searching for work aligned to their profession. And paying the debt of the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
These are the realities of a new student that wallows in despondency, invariably impacting on the community, his role post education and training, an empty future diametrically opposed to the theme of the Year of positioning activism at the forefront.
A new student should be conscious of his surroundings, to possess analytical skills and creative thinking to change society and to find an innovative way of contributing to community development through cooperatives to empower the community and to cushion the debilitating effects of poverty and unemployment.
A new student should assume features and characteristics of a new cadre committed to the vision of a better future, committed to society, belonging to an organised formation in the form of a convocation attached to his alma mater doing community work, international work, policy work and campus work through funding initiatives, restoring the dignity of a female student, decent housing and accommodation.
Student Representative Councils (SRCs) are organs of peoples’ power and development key drivers based on the manifesto, mission and vision of the organisation and the aspirations of students.
To build a higher system aligned to country’s future and its short, medium and long term plans by employing various strategies to achieve these goals, each and cumulatively and in manner that is synergized and integrated in order to translate the organisation’s vison into a tangible programme of action to achieve desired goals and resolutions, research, policy development, lobbying and advocacy.
We asks, amongst other questions whether members of SASCO are members of the African National Youth League or the Young Communist League. This leaves the purpose of this question for debate with a view for an independent and candid analysis if a new student, a new cadre looking into the future exists in our midst, and exist in our branch or elsewhere, or if we are superfluous or rhetorically Utopian.
By their nature SRCs are contested across the political party spectrum, religious groups (Student Christian Organisation, Student Union for Christian Action…), community based organisations, institutional management and labour, each with its unique agenda derived from its peculiar interest. Our relationship with the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), the residence/shop floor interests at institutions, the collective bargaining power and working class struggles is a classic example of power relations and the import of alliances in the broader liberation struggles.
What we are witnessing unfolding, that is labour brokers, nepotism abuse, quid pro quo, gender based violence and rape inter alia are a microcosm of the modern day slavery and working class exploitation.
Workers, represented by NEHAWU and the professional academic staff are not only limited to workers struggles but intertwined with the broader working class struggles, fighting exploitation, meagre wages and aligning workers struggles with student and community struggles.
SASCO exists within a highly explosive environment, finds itself enmeshed within this terrain, a highly contested and polluted complex terrain, which if not properly harnessed and managed through an analysis of the forces at play would inhibit and detract it from the main agenda of leading students, representing their interests through leadership of the SRC in a manner that gives effect to what SPoT represents. History instructive with the impasse of the 20th and 21st Conference testimony to this assertion.
Over a number of years SASCO has suffered embarrassing losses of the SRC ballot. This can be attributed to the following, varyings from campus to campus:
Disunity within the Progressive Youth Alliance;
Corruption, crass materialism and conspicuous consumption in a seas of poverty;
Defying and undermining the organisation upon deployment;
Personal interests above organisational and student interests;
Arrogance and aloofness;
Failure to execute organisational manifesto and neglect of student demands; and
Organisational infighting and absence of accountability,
Depending on respective branches and the nature and manifestation of the problems, inherent dynamics the healthy and programmatic state of the PYA the situation is dire and needs immediate attention, and varies from to branch to branch, with a no size fits approach as an antidote to the unfortunate situation.
The organisation needs to prioritise this area as it has the domino effect of affecting and diminishing local and national government votes and the ANC’s electoral performance. In the face of this the pertinent question is: Does SASCO’s performance have an influence on the local and national outcome? The answer can be both in the affirmative and in the negative.
As part of the programme of action strategic alliances and collaborations with organisations within the Congress Movement are critical, based on a common agenda that is mutually beneficial, as opposed to a blazer SRC mentality and the attendant benefits unrelated to student struggles and interests.
STUDENT ACCOMMODATION & POVERTY
Even though it is essential to focus on the right to learn. One thing that sometimes gets ignored is the appalling living conditions students are subjected to. Some stay in dingy places where it is near impossible for anyone to be able to pass at school. Female students in particular, are also susceptible to be used for sex in exchange for accommodation. Other students sleep at libraries or lecture halls.
This is totally unacceptable and more needs to be done to curb this unfortunate situation. SASCO needs to be more vigilant to this phenomenon because it is an impediment to the many students we represent. Secondly, the issue of poverty among students is another pandemic. Many students go to bed without having eaten. Once again this is another reality of post-apartheid South Africa.
Poverty affects many people including students at university. Comrades, most of us come from poor backgrounds but let us help each other when it comes to sharing food. Let the spirit of Ubuntu prevail because one cannot sleep well knowing that others did not have a meal.
Institutions of higher learning and even Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have a huge responsibility to assist with regards to students at least having three meals a day. Even though SASCO has limited resources we also have to do more in this regard. Working together we could definitely help more students with sharing of food, basic amenities, needs, and provision of sanitary towels to female students. Dignity is not negotiable.
GBV, RAPE AND DEPRESSION
Comrades, it would be remiss of me not to mention the pestilent scourge of GBV. Admittedly, this is a societal problem and many of the problems that occur in institutions of higher learning emanate from society. However, I would like to focus on GBV from solely from a university perspective. There have been numerous instances of GBV at universities and SASCO strongly condemns these despicable acts.
Relationships are generally difficult to navigate. But, abusing women is not the solution. Of course, men also get abused but it would be foolhardy to not acknowledge that women are the biggest victims of GBV. Closely linked to GBV is the issue of rape. Rape culture is pervasive in institutions of higher learning in South Africa. Many women are victims of rape at universities.
This is extremely alarming because consent is extremely important. Comrades, it is just as important to realise that that consent can be withdrawn at any minute. Let campuses and residences be safe havens for women. The law also needs to be firm when it is called upon. Enough is enough because many of our sisters have been reporting these issues without receiving the justice they deserve.
Depression is another issue which is destroying students at university. Many students are suffering from depression and anxiety. There are also many reasons for this. Studying is extremely stressful and others get overwhelmed by its rigorous demands. But all stakeholders in the education sector have a responsibility to ensure that students’ mental health is taken care of.
Comrades, in December this year the ANC will be having its elective conference. Now it is important to note that the ANC has not opened the debate on succession. Having said that, it is essential to discuss what type of leadership we and the type of policies that leadership must implement. Of course it would be opportunistic to mention name because that is not permitted.
Unfortunately, other ill-disciplined members of the ANC have already pronounced on who should be Presidents , Deputy Secretary etc of the organisation.. SASCO frowns upon this alien behaviour because it only exacerbates factionalism in the organisation.. However, it is important for SASCO to state what type of leadership is suitable to lead the ANC.
In the 2017 elective conference in Nasrec, the ANC membership tasked the leadership to bring about radical socioeconomic transformation. How has this leadership fared in this area? Free education was another resolution of the 54th Conference of the ANC. But clearly this resolution has not come to fruition. President Ramaphosa also said dealing with corruption was a top priority for him when he assumed office. Has this corruption been dealt with? When we say leadership, we mean the top six and entire NEC of the ANC to lower structures..
We also have the extraordinary situation where the Secretary-General of the ANC has been suspended for over a year now. How has this development affected the ANC? The SG is the engine of the organisation, has not having an SG weakened the ANC or not SASCO ought to analyse.
As SASCO it is in our best interest to advocate for a younger leadership. Young people need to swell the leadership ranks of the ANC. This is across the layers of the organisation, from the NEC and top 6. This is because the current leadership consists of many old people who may not understand some of the challenges faced by young people. Clearly, this leadership has been unable to solve the pertinent issue of youth unemployment and to bring about free education. Of course, we cannot elect young people just because they are young. They need to possess the requisite skills to be able to perform in these positions.
Another thing we need to guard against is the use of money at ANC conferences. The ANC is a mass-based organisation and that means anyone who has the right experience and skills can lead it. However, if money is to be used to decide ANC conferences then that excludes many deserving comrades who may not possess exorbitant financial resources. In fact it is vote buying, and amounts to corruption, leading to patronage, nepotism, purging and State tenders.
Branches of the ANC must be given space to elect their preferred candidates without being enticed by money. This movement of Oliver Tambo is not for sale at any price. We wish the ANC a successful Conference which will take far-reaching resolutions that will transform this country’s economy. We also urge the ANC to elect leaders who have unimpeachable moral conduct and are willing to serve as humble servants of the people.
One of my comrade wrote this “The tragedy of our politics is that those with ideas do not have money, those with money do not have ideas, those with numbers do not have integrity and those with integrity do not have numbers”.
Comrades, recent events in Ukraine have shaken the international community. SASCO wishes to add its voice in this conflict. We are of the view that the sovereignty of states is sacrosanct and must be respected at all times. However, there is no doubt that President Putin has raised serious issues which have not been taken into account.
It is a travesty of justice that NATO has been expanding quite rapidly in Central/Eastern Europe even though it promised not to when the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991. In fact, fourteen states from Central/Eastern Europe region have joined NATO since 1997. This obviously poses a great security risk to Russia. It is for this reason Russia has decided to adopt this approach.
SASCO is also dismayed at the sheer hypocrisy of Western countries who have wrought havoc in many states from Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.
The USA, France and Britain in particular have been invading states since time immemorial. Yet they have never been sanctioned. Why is that? Seemingly, these states can do as they please without any consequences. In 2003, then American President George W. Bush blatantly lied to the world and said Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Britain also joined America in this needless invasion and many innocent Iraqis lost their lives due to Bush and Blair’s idiocy. Why weren’t these two former Heads of State not hauled before the International Criminal Court? They have blood of innocent Iraqis on their hands. Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir are some of the African leaders who have been charged by the ICC. Why can’t leaders from Western countries not be charged for war crimes too? Iraq has never recovered from this farcical war. The same can be said of Afghanistan. They were also victims of reckless military adventures of the USA.
As students it is important that we thoroughly understand and analyse these issues. With regards to Russia-Ukraine conflict SASCO wishes to reiterate that dialogue is the only way a solution can be found. The economic sanctions imposed on Russia do not favour anyone including many of the European countries that depend on Russia for gas, energy and oil. The sanctions have an effect on the global economy reminiscent of the 2007 recession that plunged the global to the brink of collapse, accounting for job losses, high food and oil prices.
Many countries are still reeling from the catastrophe, their populace wallowing deep into poverty and high unemployment with massive debts and interests beyond affordability. In addition to the cruelty and viciousness of the global capitalist system, sanctions against Moscow exacerbate the frail economy derailing a dream for a free higher education system due to our entrapment into the debt owed to global financial institutions.
SASCO affirms South Africa’s great friendship with Russia. It is a friendship that was formed during the dark days of apartheid. Russia supported our liberation struggle to the hilt at a time when it was not fashionable to do so. They did this by providing financial resources, military equipment and even gave scholarships to young ANC cadres.
This relationship is still there even today as we are both members of BRICS found on a common programme to uplift the economies and livelihoods of the two countries, including other members of BRICS.
We urge the South African government to engage both Kyiv and Moscow to find a solution to this impasse without undue interference from Western imperialist forces whose agenda is capitalist.
SASCO is repulsed by the naked racism of the Western media houses. European and American news outlets cannot hide their racism. White journalists are making derogatory comments about how this conflict is not taking place in the Middle or Africa but in Europe and this has to be stopped. Yet, these biased journalists forget to mention that many of the conflicts in Africa and Middle East are often fermented by Western imperialists.
It is also disheartening to see Africans based in Ukraine receiving different treatment to their white counterparts. Even when Europe is in crisis they never fail to show their disdain for black people. Time and again their racism manages to jump out. This spurns SASCO into action by joining the Internationalist Social Youth, the International Union of Students and other progressive organisations across the world for a peaceful world order devoid of institutionalised and dehumanizing system of racism.
Still on the international front SASCO the Palestinian situation cannot be left unattended. For many decades Israel is subjecting Palestinians to the worst form of apartheid. As South Africans we know this pain all too well. It is quite scandalous that the West has poured so much resources in trying to protect Ukraine. Yet, Palestinians have been suffering at the hands of the Zion State for well over fifty years. In the worst form of hypocrisy there has been no sanctions against Israel.
It is also quite ironic that Israel has condemned Russia even though it is bombing the people of Palestine because they dared to fight for their sovereignty. SASCO has always supported the people of Palestine and we ought to do more to show our solidarity to the people of Palestine. We have led this struggle with other progressive forces in South Africa. Clearly, much more still needs to be done because Palestinians are yet to experience freedom and peace.
Next to home we support the people of eSwatini in their unflinching and determined resolve for a democratic eSwatini based on one man one vote in a system that is fair, democratic and based on the will of the people. The Dlamini dynasty must fall. We call for the intensification of the Struggles against the Dlamini dynasty, and the release of all political prisoners.
To conclude, it is of vital importance that SASCO does not only speak on these issues. The Struggle for free education must be intensified. This is the rubric of our campaign for universal access and a free higher education system aligned to human capital development, the priorities of the State, job creation and poverty eradication.
Liberation of young black people should be elevated to the apex of our development and transformation agenda. The right to learn is enshrined in our much celebrated Constitution hence our conviction that education is a right, not a commodity.
We ought to critically, without blinking to reflect the reality of young black South Africans who are in desperate need of an education. Secondly, the issues of accommodation and poverty eradication are key. And very worrying in view of the squalid conditions experienced by students. These issues have proven to be stumbling blocks for many students, thus accounting for the high rate of drop out. We cannot afford to see the dreams of young black kids being crashed and derailed.
The scourge of Gender Based Violence (GBV), rape culture and depression needs specific attention. These have proven to be quite prevalent among university students. Institutions of higher learning are centres of innovation, research, leaning and knowledge not havens for criminality. Criminals must be isolated, prosecuted and jailed. What kind of society are we building in the face of these ugly acts that subject women to the worst of abuse with perpetual scars on their dignity? This must stop. It is now or never!
The ANC needs to make sound political decisions that will improve the lives of people. This means electing capable leaders who will rise above factionalism and foster real unity in the ranks of the liberation movement. AB Xuma, the President of the ANC aptly surmises this when he said:
“To Congress we must be loyal and true. For Congress, we must forget any personal or sectional interests or gain. We must put the cause and the interest of the people before any expediency”.
For many years ANC support at the ballot has been on a constant decline. This is on account of voter apathy, especially amongst young people. Young people are the future, and should lead the Struggle for a future that is consonant with their aspirations. A weak ANC and society without the ANC would adversely derail the National Democratic Revolution, deferring a dream for free quality higher education, poverty eradication and job creation, and an economy that would be beneficial to society as a whole. This is a revolution that cannot be postponed.
Collaborating with the Progressive Youth Alliance, the working class movement led by NEHAWU on the shop floor, campus grounds and every inch of our institutions SASCO must raise and instil working class consciousness as an assault against reactionary forces that impede our quest for the creation of the National Democratic Society.
Corruption erodes societal confidence in the ANC’s vanguardism and hegemony in society as a catalyst and change agent. Corruption impacts adversely on development, denying the country of much need resources, punctuating development. SASCO welcomes the reports and recommendations of the Zondo Commission into State capture and aligns ourselves with a call for the prosecution of those whose thieving hands were in the cookie jar. Corruption is an antitheses of development. It must be arrested. And that time is now.
Let us rebuild and renew the ANC with an eye on development, the quality of life, ethical leadership and the 2024 national elections. We need leader of impeccable stature, free of corruption.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SASCO.
1. A need to re-orientate the organisation, design programmes with mass appeal to students;
2. Introduce a new political education and training curriculum that incorporates ethical and servant leadership, including organisational development interventions, emotional and spiritual intelligence to instil urgency and purpose;
3. An internship and intensive practical training programmes that link graduates to business through an incentivised skills development levy that it attractive to create jobs (a practical meaning is necessary);
4. To re-orientate and develop the curriculum into specialised fields within the realms of scarce skills to harness and integrate technological and technical development, training and skills in the age of the 4th IR and androids;
5. To lobby and advocate for the reintroduction of Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGISA) to create more jobs;
6. To invest in TVET colleges as an investment in the area of technical skills;
7. Maintaining the core values and principles from the organisation derives from the programme of action;
8. Investing in leadership in building a new visionary student;
9. To redefine the mandate higher education institutions through councils with a vision to reconfigure them as a catalyst for socio-economic transformation, development, excellence and job creation;
10. Retention of the four pillars of SPoT and African leadership;
11. To lobby and campaign for the reduction of the cost of data to ensure access to education through online learning.
12.Recruitment of one million membership for SASCO, with an interest of building a mass based support in and outside campus.
Comrades, I wish you all the best for the academic year of 2022. Remember, we are doing this for our parents and peers who never got the opportunity to study. We are the ones who will bring joy to their faces.
The struggle continues! Aluta continua!
I thank you.