Address by Mr Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, MP in the National Assembly
Speaker and Honourable Members,
We should all take a leaf out of the students’ book because during their protests they were able to rise above narrow sectarian interests to fight for a common cause, something which is becoming rarer and rarer in our national politics.
The second lesson is that, apart from other political dynamics that were at play, the rejection of political parties during the student protests, though strategic on the one hand, pointed to a yawning disconnect between political organisations and voters, on the other.
It is clear that we have some soul-searching to do.
Coming back to the theme of today’s debate, the United Democratic Movement supports the students call for free education and the reasons are as follows:
First, government has room to eliminate wasteful expenditure in its Departments, which runs into billions of Rands annually, and to reallocate the money to tertiary education.
Second, government should compel universities to be transparent about their cost structures and to identify opportunities for cost cutting. Furthermore, steps should be taken to ensure that institutions of higher learning are transparent about and accountable for their use of public funds. The Auditor General must audit their books.
Third, government should redirect and reallocate some of the money that is sitting with SETAS to higher education to make free education a reality, as these SETAS are increasingly becoming employment agencies for the ruling party and its cronies.
Fourth, on transformation, Honourable Minister, ensuring access to higher education is only one side of a complex problem. Government should address issues of racism in the sector, of an alienating institutional culture for the majority of students, concerns about the lack of advancement of black academics and general concerns about the language of tuition.
While still on the subject of transformation, Mr Minister, I wish to ask you two questions. The first question is: Of the universities that have been placed under administration, how many of the administrators are black? The second question is: How many black consultants have been used by these administrators over the years?
Fifth, we propose that the Task Team that has been established to look into the provision of free university education be opened up to civil society organisations and relevant stakeholders in order to ensure that as many stakeholders as possible contribute to the process.
The time for political blame game is over! We must now work together to put forward a comprehensive plan that will ensure that, through free university education, our children are able to escape the vicious cycle of poverty, unemployment and inequality.