Saturday, October 24, 2015

Blade Nzimande Withheld Report on Free Varsity Education
23 October, 2015 09:28

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande withheld for three years a report that found free university education was viable, according to a report.

The Mail & Guardian newspaper reported on Friday that Nzimande received the study in December 2012 from a working group he appointed in 2010.

The group, chaired by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University vice-chancellor Derrick Swartz, investigated the best model for free tertiary education.

It proposed that the system would be similar to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, where applicants would have to prove they could not afford fees.

Salim Vally, a University of Johannesburg associate professor who was in the working group, told the newspaper he did not know why the report was not released to the public.


Department of Higher Education spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana reportedly said Nzimande sent the report to the Treasury in 2012 to find out if they could fund the model.

Nkwanyana said Treasury concluded it would be costly and would compromise on things like social grants.

He said the best option was to continue expanding NSFAS and that he could release the report at any time, when given the go-ahead, so that criticisms could be addressed.

The Treasury said government had drastically increased funding to NFSAS.

On Friday thousands of protesting students will descend on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to confront President Jacob Zuma.

They will wait for the president’s comments on the tuition fee hike debate that has gripped the country since last Wednesday.

The protest started when Wits University students protested against a proposed 10.5% fee hike. It then spread to campuses nationwide.

Police had used stun grenades to disperse large groups of protesters, most notably on Wednesday when students stormed the Parliament precinct while Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was delivering his mid-term budget.

Students stick knife into hypocritical Nzimande

23 OCTOBER 2015, 05:43

PROMISES: Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, left, has been a particular target of students at campuses around the country who have been protesting against high university fees

THE African National Congress’s Polokwane national conference in 2007 coincided with the enactment of multiple Faustian pacts, that have since mutated and are revealed today as the processions of patronage savaging any notion of meritocracy or competence, particularly in the context of state institutions and enterprises.

But Blade Nzimande’s elevation (or reward) then on the basis of strategic loyalty was a curious exception as he, unlike so many of his kith, was objectively qualified to assume his role as Minister of Higher Education and Training. But he was irreparably flawed in other ways; long before students began protesting against tuition fee hikes, their cause was fatally doomed, because the man charged with safeguarding the passages of graduates secretly hates them.

There are stark contrasts between the two major protests that have featured at university campuses across the country this year. The first, "Rhodes Must Fall", was merely a distraction conceived — and executed — by unreconstructed hooliganism. Supported by partial media institutions, the campaign humiliated the University of Cape Town into surrendering to acts of disobedience via amnesty.

But the latest, "Fees Must Fall", is materially different, and the behaviour of Nzimande, aping Tina Joemat-Pettersson hunting with the hares while running with the hounds in De Doorns in 2013, illustrates that our students are on their own.

Nzimande is not so much a minister of higher education as he is a minister for a particular way of thinking — a way that combines perverted racial perspectives with the cruelty of central committee management and attaches it to a world defined by selective justice — for example, human rights abuses should be condemned, unless Africans commit them. His recent comments on Sudan’s fugitive President Omar al-Bashir are particularly interesting as it was Nzimande, of all people, who publicly criticised the presence of Swaziland’s King Mswati III at President Jacob Zuma’s inauguration in 2009.

These days, his rambling speeches for the South African Communist Party (SACP) vacillate between ambiguity and downright hostility; in Comrade Blade’s infinite galaxy, we are all North Koreans suspended between paranoia, oppression and Cuban holidays (although some of us are suspended in R1.1m German cars).

To answer why students are being slapped with hikes, it is helpful to compare the cost of former president Thabo Mbeki’s administration — the one Nzimande was instrumental in dismantling — with the cost (and the size) of Zuma’s.

It’s also helpful to consider that Nzimande himself has been repeatedly warned that his department’s budget is hopelessly short. Both considerations — coupled with the cycles of perpetual loss enjoyed by state-owned enterprises — should determine why tertiary education can no longer be offered at low cost.

But even if there were no consequences to rampant impunity, Nzimande would probably find a way to sabotage the prospect of cheap education. Graduates, for all their idealism, are conscious that their careers will be subjected to the principles of the (relatively) free market and classical economic theory, wherein talent is rewarded (against the hypocrisy of Thomas Piketty), where risk is necessary (against the mollycoddling of Lindiwe Zulu), and where the roots of entrepreneurship and unblemished "economic freedom" are cultivated.

From China to Latin America, young engineers learn to be as aware of the forces that shape and nurture their careers as they are of their skill. This runs counter to — and is vastly more powerful than — Nzimande’s ideological position; he knows he cannot change it, and it infuriates him.

The cowardice of communists knows no bounds: when students who don’t know better start attacking their respective universities’ vice-chancellors, Nzimande does not immediately attend to the protesters’ misguided anger and absorb this responsibility. He feigns a moment’s sympathy. It takes riots outside Parliament to force him to appear, and then he mutters nonsense about systems and frameworks, reminiscent of a hastily constructed management consultant report or some farcical investigation into a rural palace.

This is a noble, legitimate campaign, however brutal and messy it appears. With the help of the media and other institutions that the unelected yet influential SACP despises, the hypocrisy, immobility and indifference designed in Polokwane in 2007 can be exposed on an unprecedented scale as the dire threat to the country’s future that it is. These students require support and solidarity.

• Reader works for an energy investment and political advisory firm.

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