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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 14, No. 41, 23 October 2015

In this Issue:

Red Alert

Eusebius McKaizer`s isolation and attack on Comrade Blade Nzimande revealed his shocking ignorance about higher education, technical and vocational training

By Alex Mashilo

The ongoing student struggle that started at the University of the Witwatersrand and spread across the country to about 17 universities is a legitimate struggle.

This is a struggle, in my view, against the class discrimination facing the children of the poor and the working class who make the majority of the people in our country and cannot afford the high cost of access to university and college education. This is the struggle to increase the pace, which we have started as the ANC-led alliance, to rollout the introduction of free quality higher education, technical and vocational training. The Secretariat of the alliance partners, the ANC, SACP and Cosatu met yesterday with Progressive Youth Alliance formations and expressed support on the legitimate content of this struggle.

However, there are other forces and elements outside there who try and use every opportunity to drive the wedge of divisions, isolate ANC leaders and attack them individually. Let us look at Eusebius McKaiser who has become one of them. When? One cannot tell.

McKaiser`s "Why is Blade absent from class" published by The Star newspaper on 19 October 2015 boils down into one line: isolate and blame the Minister of Higher Education and Training (DHET) Dr Blade Nzimande for internal "crises" in universities. This elevation of the individual, who is then isolated, and its total disregard of both the historical processes and underlying structural forces that drive social change is a manifestation of the worst form of liberalism.

McKaiser`s approach is similar to that of the DA. But the DA is better in the sense that it is openly pursuing opposition politics to achieve a counter-revolution against the ANC and is widely known to be less interested in any truth that can jeopardise its prospects to become the government.

McKaiser writes for us under the pretext of an objective analysis that is independent and holistic. A person in his position should be familiar with the laws governing the subject matter that he writes about for our attention. McKaiser should give us facts and must not be biased - for he is unlike a factionalised youth leader who is simply grandstanding by isolating Nzimande individually from the rest of the ANC and the government without noticing that this is an attack on both the ANC itself as well as on the government that it is leading. All of this in pursuit of the private interests of some handlers with the net effect of disrupting the unity and cohesion of the ANC with its ultimate destruction.

Followed to its logical conclusion, this scapegoating of Nzimande is no different from blaming President Jacob Zuma for the systemic economic crises of high levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty facing the working class and the poor and must be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

What are the underlying issues?

Since 2009 the ANC-led government created a dedicated focus on higher education and training when it separated the former department of education into two, the basic education department and the DHET - to which Nzimande was appointed the first Minister. If McKaiser and his like were honest, they would recognise the tremendous efforts undertaken by government to expand access to universities and colleges since then, through a dedicated and increased focus compared to any time in the past.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was tripled, from about R3 billion to more than R9 billion by 2015. The NSFAS was further extended to college students, who were previously completely excluded from it and its predecessor, the Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa. In the past they were never provided with any form of alternative student funding whatsoever.

All of this progress, tremendously increasing access, was made possible, in addition to allocations from the national treasury, thanks to continuous exploration and innovation by the DHET of new sources of funding. This in the context where government departments were restructured leading to the National Skills Fund and Sector Education and Training Authorities moved to the DHET.

Apart from the NSFAS, universities receive a subsidy in the region of R21 billion by 2015. Increased attention on transformation saw universities, with greater attention on upgrading historically disadvantaged institutions, further receiving special infrastructure grants.

These are welcome advances notwithstanding that all of these resources combined are still not yet sufficient and, in addition, have been outpaced by the growing demand for student funding. It is disingenuous for McKaiser and his like to blame Nzimande for the problem of insufficient resources facing the DHET to meet the demand for student funding and increase the subsidy to universities and colleges.

For the DHET to meet the demand, its allocation from the national treasury must be increased substantially. This is an essential component of the crux of the matter. It is an inevitable in South Africa`s path to progressively rollout free quality higher education, technical and vocational training for those who cannot afford. This requires the injection of hundreds of billions of rands per annum.

Without placing our country`s democratic transformation on to a second, more radical phase to reduce the persisting high levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty; to change the colonial structure of our economy; to alter and expand the tax base, including through increased graduated tax especially on the capitalist class, this strategic objective will not be possible.

But neither the DHET nor Nzimande as an individual is responsible for fiscal policy and revenue allocation. This is the policy realm of the national treasury, which in turn is subject to the limits of the tax base and, primarily, the social organisation of our economy and its performance as the basic source from which state revenue is generated.

Karl Marx reminds us in `The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte` that: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living".

What we are facing, manifesting itself in universities through a contradiction between the rising cost of access and student protest as a response to growing unaffordability is an outcropping of deeper economic and historical problems that are far beyond the mandates of a single government department or individual leader.

This is why it is also populist for a youth leader who claims to support the ANC to isolate and simplistically blame one person, Nzimande, for what is a reflection of deep-rooted economic system problems that have been handed over to our democratic transition by centuries- and decades-old colonial oppression and apartheid based on racist and sexist capitalist exploitation.

According to the South African law as it stands right now, the HET Minister is prevented from making administrative, governance and curriculum decisions in, and for universities. This as a result of the regime of institutional autonomy and academic freedom that has been conferred to higher and further learning institutions.

McKaiser`s grandstanding, and that of his like against Nzimande amounts to calling on the Minister to act illegally and unlawfully and make decisions which he is prohibited, by law, to make - and which are reserved to university councils, executive managements and senates.

Having developed a clear understanding of what this regime implied to democratic transformation, progressive students post-1994 fought against it. I was one of them. I also served as a student leader. We lost the battle in 1997-1998 with the promulgation of the Higher Education Act, the Higher Education White Paper 3, and the Further Education and Training Act.

The current problems in universities and colleges remind us of the strategic correctness of our student politics. This reinstates the relevance of our call for the amendment of the above-mentioned legislative framework. Institutional autonomy and academic freedom must be redefined in a way that they do not become conflated with each other and neither of the two can be used as the centre of resistance against national education and training transformation, to commit financial and academic exclusion, and handover curriculum in the monopoly of a few individuals at the exclusion of the whole of society.

* Alex Mohubetswane Mashilo is SACP Spokesperson and writes in his personal capacity as a full-time professional revolutionary. The edited version of this piece was given to The Star with a request to publish in print in line with the principle of ensuring a balance and covering a diversity of perspective to avoid one-sidedness. The writer is looking forward to this publication and hopes it will happen.


HAMAS from Palestine concludes its visit to South Africa

By Chris `Che` Matlhako

HAMAS from Palestine concludes its visit to South Africa

Over the last few days the African National Congress (ANC) hosted a senior delegation of HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement) of Palestine, led by Khalid Mish’al - head of the political bureau of Hamas.

Working quietly for several months, the ANC was able to pull through the best kept secret with arrival of HAMAS in South Africa. To the obvious annoyance of certain fringe and reactionary elements, once the presence of the delegation was announced media and other platforms went into supercharge of all sorts. Allegations and abuse were hurled at our movement for hosting the delegation.

Hamas are falsely accused of many things including terrorism, religious fundamentalism and supporting extremist groups like ISIS. All of these accusations to paint HAMAS as a barbaric enemy proved to be false. For example, on the extremist ISIS group, Khaled Mi’shal said during his trip: "This [Islamic State] is so brutal that even in nightmares you don’t see it. Of course, we consider them terrorists. They are destroying our societies, destroying human beings from the inside."

Hamas, we learnt during their trip in South Africa, holds certain progressive views that we welcome. For example, their commitment to a non-sectarian future for Palestine-Israel incorporating all peoples of that land including indigenous Palestinian Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Jews and others.

Principally, we believe hosting the delegation of HAMAS led by Mish’al was an important move on the part of a national liberation movement that has had long historic ties with the Palestinian peoples’ liberation struggles.

The ANC was attempting to get a better understanding of the broad spectrum of the Palestinian political landscape. It is publicly known that historically the ANC has fraternal relations with Fateh and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) of Yasser Arafat.

The PLO’s Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela were iconic leaders of these resistance movements and had many similarities. South Africans more than any people, know to well the pain the Palestinians are going through. We understand the oppression in Palestine more than others - segregation, racial discrimination and brutalising exploitation. Was it not for the incredible mobilisation, both internally and internationally - international solidarity and boycotts - the evil system of apartheid wouldn`t have been defeated.

Today, Apartheid Israel continues to brutalise Palestinians almost six decades into its existence. Gaza today is in ruins because of the relentless bombing and wanton destruction waged by Israel in an effort towards collective punishment for choosing HAMAS in the 2006 democratic elections.

Mandela once remarked; “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”. Just 16 days after his release from prison, Mandela met Yasser Arafat in Lusaka, Zambia. Mandela embraced Arafat and reiterated his - and that of the ANC - support for the Palestinian struggle, telling the press; “[I] believe that there are many similarities between our struggle and that of the people of Palestine”.

During a visit to Australia in October 1990, Mandela reiterated the support of the ANC for the Palestinian struggle, saying; “We identify with them (the Palestinians) because we do not believe it is right for the Israeli government to suppress basic human rights in conquered territories. We agree with the United Nations that international disputes should be settled by peaceful means. The belligerent attitude which is adopted by the Israeli government is to us unacceptable”.

In the last few weeks the situation in Palestine has escalated to a possible intifada (uprising). The belligerent attitude of the Netanyahu government continues with impunity to commit crimes against humanity against a defenceless and unarmed people in West Bank and the occupied territories.

Palestinian civilians are being subjected to a brutal military assault. The death toll keeps rising with each passing day and many victims are children. It is indeed time for Apartheid Israel to realise that a military solution cannot solve the problem of invasion and land theft.

The solution lies in the involvement of all the political forces in Palestine which include HAMAS. A ceasefire agreement that does not include HAMAS and to some extent Egypt - a country that was hell-bent of liquidating HAMAS at some point, complicates things.

It is in this context that the visit of HAMAS to South Africa is important, if democratic South Africa is to play in any role whatsoever trying to resolve the conflict.

Hosting HAMAS was the ANC’s endeavours at further entrenching and invoking of the historic ties that exist between these peoples, even in a post-apartheid democratic SA and ongoing crisis situation that engulfs Palestine today.

Fresh from its National General Council, which resolved to ‘encourage disengagement with Israel’ and enhancing efforts towards ‘promoting solidarity and resolving the conflict’, the visit of HAMAS was welcomed as further movement towards practicalising effective solidarity measures with the peoples’ of Palestine and their struggle for self-determination.

The Alliance managed to get an audience with the delegation and was able to exchange honestly with the delegation and came to a set of agreements which should translate into tangible programmes in the near future. The SACP further committed to increase its efforts to mobilise for deeper and far-reaching measures and sanctions, divestment and boycott of Israel; and to deepen its work with fraternal solidarity formations such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). This is something that now both Hamas and Fateh/PLO have called on us to advance.

* Cde Chris ‘Che’ Matlhako is SACP Central Committee and Politburo Member and Secretary for International Affairs.

Umsebenzi Online is an online voice of the South African working class