Address by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP ( UDM President) at the WSU crisis Stakeholder Meeting at Mthatha High School Stadium on Monday, 02 September 2013

Programme Director and Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the funeral of the late Mr Tsengwa in Willowvale a few years ago, Bishop Mbethe expressed feelings of great sadness about the dreadful state and poor quality of our education in the Eastern Cape. His lamentation was prompted by the continuous poor matric performance of the Eastern Cape Province.

He summed up the importance of education in the Eastern Cape as follows and I quote: “The Eastern Cape is not endowed with gold, but its gold has over the always been the good quality of its education.”

I guess it is precisely because of this reason that the people of this Province heeded our call to meet here today to discuss and find solutions to the challenges facing Walter Sisulu University (WSU).

WSU challenges are as old as our democracy itself. This university has long-standing problems, which have been allowed to recur ceaselessly.

I therefore hope that our discussions today will go a long way towards identifying and solving some, if not all, of WSU’s challenges.

You will recall that this meeting is an outcome of requests for my intervention from concerned parents, students, members of the public and other stakeholders about the challenges at WSU.
After I was inundated with these requests, I wrote a letter to President Zuma, asking him to set up a task team to look into the crisis at WSU. President Zuma is however yet to respond to my letter.

The inordinate amount of time he is taking to respond prompted me to propose today’s meeting.
I took this decision because it appears that salary negotiations between the Department of Education and WSU management and employees have deadlocked and there seems to be no resolution in sight.

Even last week, Mr Qonde, the Director General of the Department of Higher Education refused to alter the Department’s stance. Nor has he even tried to meet the workers halfway on their demands. His primary argument is that WSU management and employees are paid more than workers doing the same jobs at other universities.

Needless to say, the crisis at WSU negatively affects the quality and access of students to education.

This is more so when one considers Government’s bizarre decision to close the university. Has Government thought about what is going to happen to the students who come from other Provinces?

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to urge all of us here today to working together towards finding short, medium and long-term solutions to the crisis at WSU. The role of authorities is particularly important in this regard.

However, we should not hesitate to take the legal route should we sense a tinge of intransigence on their part.

As we now ready ourselves for our discussions, we should do so mindful of the fact that we are not a labour court, nor are we a bargaining council. Ours is to help restore stability and normality at WSU.

You will recall that I when I called for this meeting I proposed that it be presided by the South African Council of Churches (SACC). I am now going to hand over the meeting to them.

But before I do so I wish to thank the UDM King Sabatha Dalindyebo (KSD) Municipality Councillors for sponsoring the marquee and the chairs for this event.

I now hand the meeting over to the South African Council of Churches and in doing so wish the meeting the greatest success!

I thank you.