Parliamentary snap debate “transformation in the higher education sector”

Honourable Speaker,

The greatest single threat in any time of crisis is a lack or absence of leadership; and what we have come to witness over the past 2 weeks has been exactly that: an absence of leadership.

Today, we are called upon to debate transformation in higher education and there is widespread agreement, which the IFP subscribes to, that change and transformation in higher education is necessary for nation building, social cohesion and strengthening our democratic discourse underpinned by inclusivity and access.

Such an agenda needs leaders who are fit for purpose.

Since 2009 the Department of Higher Education and Training has been tripping from failure to failure which culminated in the #FeesMustFall Campaign over the past two weeks.

In reality the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Hon Dr Blade Nzimande, is not fit for purpose. He no longer enjoys the support and confidence of the constituency he has been deployed to serve.

Minister Nzimande must do the honourable thing and resign.

South Africa can ill afford to continue on this slippery slope of incompetence and failure.

The nerve, cheek and audacity of Minister Nzimande to quip that #StudentsMustFall speaks volumes about the lack of seriousness he ascribes to the concerns of students; and this must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. This gaffe was insensitive and indicative of a Minister who is out of touch with and detached from reality.

Furthermore, the utterances of the Deputy Minister of Police, Hon Maggie Sotyu must been seen in the same vain of insensitivity but escalated to higher level of concern because on her watch the police meted out brutal force against unarmed students taking us right back to apartheid style policing seen in 1976.

Acts of violence and destruction of property seen during the past few days are totally unacceptable and gives the #FeesMustFall Campaign hallmarks of chaos and not progress.

In 1994 the ANC promised South Africans free education; and in 2015 the electorate has come out to demand what was promised to them. It is time to deliver.

The zero percent fee increment for 2016 does not address the real issues and does not solve the problem because education whilst being a constitutional right it has become a commercialised commodity that the majority of our people cannot afford.

Free education must first and foremost benefit the poor, whose lives on a daily basis is punctuated by struggle and inequality.

Our democratic rights are not for sale to be sold to those with deep pockets leaving the poor, struggling and vulnerable languishing in a socio-economic wilderness without hope and progress in life and unable to contribute to South Africa’s economic growth and development because they do not have the money to buy education.

The South African Institute for Race Relations has conducted a comprehensive study which indicates that free education is possible; but more importantly the report on Minister Nzimande’s desk, which he refuses to make public and at worst implement, suggests that free education is possible.

If we are to succeed in transforming the higher education sector we need individuals who are fit for purpose; and students across the length and breadth of South Africa have demonstrated that they are fit for purpose; and all they need now is political leadership which is fit for purpose and equal to the task and in reality the current Minister does not provide that leadership.

The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, assures the citizenry of the right to education and it is common cause that all rights come with responsibilities; and I maintain that the National Assembly has a responsibility to confront that which threatens what the Constitution guarantees.

Before we take the next steps towards addressing the crisis in the higher education sector, it is the duty of this House to hold accountable those charged with the responsibility to lead and assess whether they have been successful or not.

I thank-you.