Friday, 15 June 2012


It would serve the interests of agents of falsification to have students in South Afrika turn a blind eye to the attacks launched against the South African Students Congress (SASCO), particularly in this volatile period of our politics where coherent ideological discourse has been replaced with opportunism, careerism and patronage. It would serve agents of indoctrination to have students believing that SASCO is working against us and settling vendettas against the ANC-led government which some continue to claim is always representing the interests of the working-class majority of this country. It would serve the interests of factions born outside the student movement to have a youth that does not question anything; for fear that we’ll question the glaringly lugubrious contributions of those who claim to be genuine representatives of our plight. But beyond that, it would serve this country that finds itself engulfed in a state of defeatism to have young people volunteering themselves to abattoirs of tyranny, where lies are claimed and easy victories are won. But young people do not serve the interests of agents of falsification, indoctrination and induced soporification and thus, revolt against the expectations imposed by these people. We revolt against this for no other reason than that in everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the sun. And this is the season and the time for young people to cut the umbilical cord that binds us to the tyranny of our elders. This is a season and a time when we declare without fear or favour that education is a site of struggle that cannot be diluted with politics of men and women who start wars in parliaments and send us out to fight and die in them.


Three days ago, on the 12th of June 2012, the president of the Republic of South Afrika, the Honourable Jacob Gidleyihlekisa Zuma, announced a cabinet reshuffle that saw Mr Mduduzi Manana, a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC Youth League and youngest Member of Parliament since 1994, being appointed as the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, a position previously held by Ms Hlengiwe B Mkhize, who was shifted to the parallel economic development portfolio. Mr Manana’s appointment sparked a lot of debate in the country, with some sections of the populace declaring it a progressive move and some strongly opposed to it. Those in the former category include the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA), led by Buti Manamela, which, in a statement released on the 14th of June 2012, declared:

The YCL would also like to extend our congratulations to the newly
appointed Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Cde Comfort
Mduduzi Manana, a distinguished youth activist and leader of our ally, the
ANCYL and a former chairperson of a YCL branch in the Gert Sibande District
in the Mpumalanga Province. All progressive youth formations should join
hands in welcoming this appointment by the state president

This celebration was, of course, not shared by student formations. The South African Democratic Student Movement (SADESMO), in a statement released n the 13th of June 2012, had this to say:

While SADESMO is totally disappointed by the appointment of Mduduzi Manana as the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training we are certainly not surprised…SADESMO believes that Manana lacks the experience required for the grueling task of transforming the higher education sector, which we view as vital if we want to make education and training a top priority in South Africa…

However, the harshest criticism came from SASCO, the largest student movement in the country, which did not attempt to mince its views in a statement released the day before. SASCO, in a statement that informed the writing of this article, had this to say about Manana’s appointment:

Given our location in education and higher education in particular we feel obliged to express our discomfort with the appointment of Mduduzi Manana as deputy minister of Higher Education and Training. SASCO is utterly dismayed, taken aback, angry, flabbergasted, disappointed and annoyed at the appointment of Mr Mdu Manana (who happens to be our colleague in the PYA as a leader of the ANCYL) as the deputy minister of higher education and training. We do not have any reason to believe that Mr Manana is up to the task of being a deputy minister of such a complex and strategic department…” [Emphasis mine]

The statement by SASCO, and in particular the quoted paragraph, was received with mixed feelings, particularly on the social network platform where +/- 7.1 million South Africans converge daily (SA Digital Statistics, 2012). Criticism also came from other student movements (even those who in principle shared the views of SASCO but for reasons difficult to comprehend, felt it necessary to join in on the scathing attacks), who too claimed that SASCO was being reactionary and emotional in its response to Mr Manana’s appointment.


As indicated, according to those who have been spewing venom at the statement released by SASCO, the organisation is settling scores with the ANC that is allegedly marginalising it. Some have gone as far as to claim that SASCO is in solidarity with the faction within the ANCYL that has been at war with the president of the Republic and is using its influence within the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) to humiliate the president and the entire ANC. How such conclusions can be drawn from the statement is yet another mystery incomprehensible to some of us who believe that the statement is posing questions that beg for critical analysis.

SASCO, in its statement, attempts to explain the basis for its dissatisfaction about Manana’s appointment:

How on earth can our ANC led government appoint such a person with no track record on issues related to education, let alone higher education and further training in particular? We do not believe that Mr Manana will help us in dealing with the plethora of challenges in the higher education and further training sector. With all due respect to the erroneously appointed deputy minister, we are not convinced that Mr Manana has the capacity to diligently deliver in this department…

At the risk of inviting further attacks on SASCO, this statement shall be qualified. Manana, who obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN), reportedly has a long history of academic exclusions from various institutions, which he alleges were informed by “ideological differences”. While this in itself is a matter that need not be viewed in isolation from Manana’s contributions in the student struggle (having started at 14 when he joined the Congress of South African Students), it is a matter that begs for engagement. Indeed, academic qualifications alone cannot be used as a determinant of a person’s capacity to lead and deliver. However, in a ministry that already finds itself faced with a “plethora of challengesand in a country that is in urgent need of the over-hauling of the education system in its entirety, there is an vital need for qualified people with a clear vision to formulate strategies on educational transformation. It stands to reason, thus, that the most experienced and most qualified of people are the ones who ought to be placed in the driving seat of this ministry. The education system in South Afrika needs more than just political will and commitment from the government and all stakeholders. It needs people who have experience dealing with the on-going challenge of addressing the injustices of the past in the higher education and training sector. Unfortunately, an undergraduate qualification does not qualify as an indication of having dealt with this challenge at a highest level and thus, inspires no confidence in young people who are at the receiving end of the decay.


It is very easy to dismiss SASCO’s concerns as reactionary and emotional when one employs a microscopic view to the underlying issues that are facing the country and indeed, the entire Afrikan continent. However, when the retina is returned to our eyes and we thoroughly dissect the implications of a higher education and training sector in tatters, we will begin to understand how fatal a flaw it is to appoint persons with questionable abilities to the education department.

South Afrika is home to more than 58 mineral reserves in the world. 70% of them are in the platinum group metals, 40% is gold and 70% is manganese (Department of Mineral Resources 2009/2010 booklet). Historically, the economy of the country has been rooted in the primary sector. This is the sector that has the industries engaged in production or extraction of natural resources such as crops and ores and because of South Afrika’s mineral wealth, this sector has been the main driver of our economy. However, since the mid-1990s, economic growth has been driven mainly by the tertiary sector - which includes wholesale and retail trade, tourism and communications. As a result of this development, South Afrika is moving away from being an industry-based to being a knowledge-based economy, an economy which is directly based on the production, distribution and use of knowledge and information. For this reason, higher education and training is the most important sector in our country, for it is in it that producers of knowledge and information are manufactured.

South Afrika’s progress as a country and whatever policies and programmes we adopt, must at all times be in line with the objective of addressing the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and unequal distribution of wealth, all which are the chromatin network of a nucleus of historical colonial oppression and the heinous legacy of apartheid. As such, it is vital that the first sector that must have all energies employed into is the sector wherein the country’s future generations is located, for it determines whether we become beneficiaries of the apartheid legacy or agents of its annihilation. Such a herculean task dare not be left in the hands of anyone but a dedicated, committed and capacitated leader.


Having understood the context in which SASCO is raising its views, a context of Afrikan development, it becomes opportunistic and fallacious to want to claim that the organisation has any interests outside those of the future of the youth in this country. It becomes dangerous even, to want to dismiss its views as reactionary and emotional. We dare not allow agents of falsification, soporification and indoctrination to convince us otherwise, lest we flirt with our generation’s own demise.

It cannot be debated that there is a need for South Afrika to engage honest introspection that will lead to the removal of societal constructs that continue to hold us hostage, one of them being blind loyalism and the other being philistinism. These chains create limitations to our growth as a society, particularly for us young people who stand to inherit this country. Our loyalty shall never be to anything else but the ideal of a South Afrika in which those who are sent to tertiary institutions emerge as critical thinkers as opposed to functional illiterates as is the reality today. It should be to nothing else but the ideal of a country wherein education is taken seriously by the government, wherein WE are taken seriously by the government. So when debate is open, as it was with SASCO’s statement, we must not only engage it critically, we must engage it with honesty and an intention to gear it towards an Afrikan developmental agenda. Failure to do so will spell the beginning of the end and the end of what could be the beginning of a much needed mental revolution.


Malaika Wa Azania (Daughter of the soil)

Minister of Land Affairs 2033

**The author is not a member of SASCO. She is a concerned first year student at a reactionary university somewhere in the Eastern Cape. She writes in her own capacity.


Cellphone number: 076 538 1557

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