Secretary-general to the African National Congress, Gwede Mantashe said the ruling party has kept to its promise of delivering free education to all South African citizens.
The controversial ANC Sec-gen who had become irritated by the “irrational behaviors” of SA students over the recently increased fees for the next academic year, gave credit to the government under the ANC administration for increasing funding for higher education
He said there were around 150,000 black students in universities across the country in 1994, but today, the number has more than doubled, getting over 800,000, thanks to the ANC.
Now that is a success story,” he said at the RMB Morgan Stanley Big Five Investor Conference in Cape Town.
“Today when fees must fall nobody remembers the promise that was made that 87% of students in South Africa are in no-fee schools. That is free education,” Mantashe added, pointing out that the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) students in colleges had enjoyed education grants they qualified for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
“That is the promise we have made but when there are these protests, people choose to forget we are making progress towards this goal.” he said.
Speaking further on the party’s policy on education, Mantashe said unlike critic’s claims, the ANC had continued to ensure that every South African child was developed to their full capacity, no matter their economic status.
“That is why in 2007, in the conference of the ANC, we committed to up the game and work towards free education for the poor up to undergrad level,” Mantashe said, adding that there were growing calls for regime change in the students’ protests but that some had accused the party of paranoia for pointing these out.
“Today a student leader in UKZN makes a stand and says ‘our protest for a good cause has been taken over by outsiders,’ He says, ‘Many of the people who lead now are not in the university’.”
The ANC has, however, warned on Monday that certain elements appeared to have hijacked the genuine demands of students, following the discovery of three petrol bombs at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Speaking on this, Gwede Mantashe reiterated he would close all universities affected by the violent student protest for the next six weeks if he were the education minister.
“If you destroy university education infrastructure you are not working for free education,” he said.
“You are destroying the cause.”
meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has denied claims that it had hijacked the students #feesmustfall protests.
The organization is rumored to have been part of those who had hijacked the protest to rack havoc on government institutions.
In reply to this, the union said its decision to join a #FeesMustFall march scheduled for next month does not constitute the hijacking of a student-led cause.
The union said it will use its own nationwide workers’ strike, which also takes place next month, to add its voice to calls for free higher education pointing out that the plight of students and workers are linked because it’s often working class parents who can’t afford to pay university fees for their children.