#FEES? MUST FALL – THE IMPLICATIONS
This past week will surely go down as one of the most defining weeks in South African politics since the advent of democracy in 1994. For the first time The ANC government found out that a sizable number of voters are no longer going to accept what the say and do out of blind loyalty towards the party.
It is a lesson to the ANC and all other political parties that your broken election promises will come back to haunt you. Few people will forget the ANC election poster “FOR FREE QUALITY EDUCATION”.
From a campaign that started at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) with the slogan “?#?WITS? FEES MUST FALL” it soon spread to all the universities and took on the slogan “#FEES MUST FALL”. It later became “?#?BLADE? MUST FALL” after higher education minister Blade Nzimande was caught on ENCa making the comment “STUDENTS MUST FALL” then bursting out in laughter. Of course Blade’s reaction was one of anger that it was broadcast because “it was only a joke”. He has threatened to report it to the Press Ombudsman. A clear example of Blade wanting to shoot the messenger.
After the students rejected the 6% increase that Blade Nzimande proposed as a compromise the students marched to Luthuli House where they demanded that ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe come down to receive a memorandum. When Mantashe wanted to receive the memorandum on the back of a motor vehicle and to address them the students insisted that he get onto the ground where he received the memorandum but was not allowed to address the gathering of students. By now the slogan had changed to “?#?ANC? MUST FALL”.
After the march to Luthuli House Gwede Mantashe and his deputy Jessie Duarte held a press conference where Mantashe proclaimed that “The ANC fully supports the frozen fees for next year” furthermore they tried to blame the crises on the universities. This is oh so typical of the ANC trying to hijack a popular campaign for their political benefit. This statement meant that the governing political party was out of step with its own government.
The day before they had enthusiastically welcomed the announcement by Nzimande that fees would be capped at 6%.
By Friday matters had reached such a crescendo that President Zuma and several cabinet ministers were forced to meet with the vice chancellors of the universities and with student leaders. Then came the final back down from government – there would be no fees increase for 2016.
What happens next?
The government now has to find at least an additional R2.8 billion to fund this decision. Where it will come from neither the Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene nor Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande seem to know. Barely 48 hours before President Zuma’s back down, and in the middle of the “#FEES MUST FALL” fracas, the Finance Minister delivered his midterm budget speech and allocated only a R36million Rand increase to higher education whereas the VIP protection unit that Protects the President, Deputy President, former President’s their spouses and other identified dignitaries received an additional R118.8million bringing their total annual budget to R1.123billion.
In the short term the DA has made a number of proposals which the government should consider to cover this shortfall. These proposals seem to make sense.
Reallocate the R2billion obtained from the sale of the government’s shares in Vodacom from the BRICS bank to the Department of Higher Education;
Allocate the R1billion surplus in the skills development levy could be reallocated to cover the shortfall;
Transfer the additional R712million allocated to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to compensate for the depreciation of the Rand to offset the university shortfall and cut back on the costs of the embassies. SA does have one of the diplomatic corps in the world;
Reduce the number of cabinet ministers, compared to other countries SA with the lowest GDP has the most cabinet members with 35 and 37 deputy ministers – the gravy train. Other BRICS countries have: Russia 24; China 25; India 23 and Brazil 25. Other countries such as the USA 16; Britain 20 and Australia 17.
Allocate all funds for the proposed nuclear power deal to the Universities; nuclear power is clearly unaffordable for South Africa at this stage.
Having tasted success this year we can expect mass action every year in the future until the government backs down and provides more funds to provide for greater funds for free basic and tertiary education.
These protests are not unexpected. On 8 November 2010 student leaders met with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Higher Education where they warned Parliament that excessive fees meant that even children from middle-income families had difficulties in paying for education. It was also highlighted that inefficiency in the NFSAS and TEFSA was to blame for many students not receiving assistance.
In 2010 Minister Blade Nzimande appointed a working group under the chairmanship of Derrick Swartz the vice chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (formerly the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE)) to investigate the best model for free tertiary education. This committee reported to the minister in 2012 but the findings have never been released – the question has to be asked Why Not?
Government is going to have to do a lot of hard thinking and do it very quickly.
For a start they should stop rewarding inefficient and corrupt cadres and politicians with golden handshakes including excessive bonuses to get rid of them and buying their silence instead of firing them.
Some of the better known cases are Coleman Andrews of SAA who received R232.0 million, head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Mr Mxolisi Nxasana received an exit package, to the tune of R17,3 million, senior employees of the SA Revenue Services Anwa Dramat, the commissioner received R13.0 million, the SABC has also had its share of payouts such as Dali Mpofu R13.4 million and Lulama Mikhobo receiving R8.0 million. Plus many more too numerous to list.
Interesting to note that the R246million spent on Nkandla could have paid for over 5 000 students for one year to enrol for a bachelors degree at university!
Corruption is estimated to cost South Africa R80billion per year.
There must be no more arms deals. In any case as a small non aligned country why do we need a sophisticated military?
South Africa should cut back on our peacekeeping in other African states and leave that to the United Nations. Our country should rather spend the funds on educating our youth.
The South African Institute of Race Relations have revealed that a 25% cut in defence spending would save R10billion, a 5% cut in the state wage bill would save R22billion enough to put about 60 000 students through a three year bachelors course at university.
Government should also immediately embark on an aggressive campaign to attract Foreign Direct Investment, by encouraging investment rather than scaring off investors with legislation aimed at reducing foreign investments. Nor should government risk the ‘unintended consequences’ of further actions like the harsh new visa regulations which has cost the tourism industry over R5billion in the past year.
The government with its quasi communist alliance partners do not seem to understand that the higher the investments the higher company profits which means higher revenue from taxation which can be spent on education.
President Zuma and the government should learn from their favourite political allies China. With the downturn in the Chinese economy he did introduce or limit trade from the west but chose to go to the United States and Britain on state visits to sign trade agreements and boost trade. However the ANC introduces legislation to limit foreign ownership and attack the Western Capitalists. They can’t even be good communists.
Government will have to ensure that there can be no further budget overspends of R176.9billion on the Medupi and Kusile power stations. Imagine the overruns on an R1.3trillion nuclear programme.
What government cannot do is stop the process of expanding free education; this must however be across the racial divide. There are many South Africans of all races that need assistance with school fees.
Blade Nzimande’s statement in Parliament on Tuesday that “Government must have the will to tax the rich to pay for education” is interesting. Presumably that will include himself and all cabinet ministers earning R 2.2 million a year and all members of parliament earning R0.9million per year plus many tax free perks.
It is fair to say that most of the problems currently being experience in education stems from the Bantu Education act which was designed to teach African learners to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water” for a white-run economy and society, regardless of an individual’s abilities and aspirations.
During the apartheid years the government spent R644 per year on white pupils and only R42 on black pupils. The current government still has not made up for these shortcomings.
The ANC appears to have forgotten that their eventual rise to power was as a direct result of the 1976 student uprising. They rather spent money on arms and other unnecessary luxuries than on education.
As the Public Protector Thuli Madonsella said in an address last week “surely education is more important than spending money on a garden and statues.” By the same token education is more important than changing the names of towns and streets particularly if the current name is not offensive?
I am sure struggle heroes such as Nelson Mandela, OR Tambo, Govan Mbeki and many more of these true heroes would prefer to have modern new University or school built and named after them rather than having a statue erected.
Of the 24 793 public schools in the country approximately 69% or 17 000 schools are no-fee schools. The standard of teaching at many of these schools is abysmal and we should remember that the DBE’s National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) Report, published in May 2011 provided statistics on the lack of resources at public schools across the country. Of the 24 793 public schools:
• 3 544 schools do not have electricity, while a further 804 schools have an unreliable electricity source;
• 2402 schools have no water supply, while a further 2611 schools have an unreliable water supply;
• 913 do not have any ablution facilities while 11 450 schools are still using pit toilets;
• 22 938 schools do not have stocked libraries, while 19 541 do not even have a space for a library;
• 21 021 schools do not have any laboratory facilities, while 1 231 schools have stocked laboratories;
• 2 703 schools have no fencing at all; and
• 19 037 schools do not have a computer centre, whilst a further 3 267 have a room designed as a computer centre but are not stocked with computers.
Although these figures are a few years old but I doubt that there has been any significant progress.
Government must therefore treat education as a priority, it is no good tinkering around with school’s language or admission policies but to rather see the big picture and invest heavily in education by giving current teachers further education and upgrading the current schools..
Our future depends on it.
Until next time,
This newsletter is published by Clive Hatch former Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and former DA Provincial Leader. These views are my personal views and do not represent those of any other person or organisation.