Talking about the ongoing student protest over recently increased fees, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says state government should not take the protest with a wave of the hand neither should students be given the impression that they are crazy.
Mogoeng Mogoeng who was paying tribute to former ANC president Oliver Reginald Tambo on what would have been the struggle icon’s 99th birthday, said student protests for free quality higher education are an opportunity for South Africans to demonstrate their patriotism, hence should be listened to.
“We must never give students the impression that they are crazy, we must engage them and explain to them [and listen to] their position on the issue,” Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said at the the annual Oliver Tambo Memorial Lecture in Johannesburg.
Speaking further on this, the Constitutional Court Chief Justice said the #FeesMustFall protesters’ demands are genuine as no student should be barred from accessing higher education only because their parents cannot afford to pay tuition fees
He said it was time for all South Africans to stand up, listen and help the protesting students and that no one could claim to have a solution to the protests calling for free quality higher education, but that this was an opportunity for South Africans to operate as a collective in seeking solutions to an issue he said he was weary of defining as a crisis but wanted to view instead as a challenge.
“If we ever have to demonstrate patriotism, this is the time to rally around; we do not want those institutions to burn down. Everyone, every organisation must identify solutions engage the students,
“If we condemn the students from afar, without meaningfully engaging them, we would only be hardening their attitudes.” Mogoeng said on Thursday to loud round of applause.
Oliver Tambo died in 1993 from an illness and Mogoeng spoke of the much-lauded values the long-serving ANC president displayed, recounting how he knew the leader from his young age even though he never met him.
“One is encouraged by all sectors of society to engage with students just so a lasting solution can be found. I can only encourage all of us, government included, to do more than what has been done already.” Mogoeng pointed out, adding that he strongly believed that government understands better that the situation cries out for more concerted effort on an ongoing basis and communication that would give students hope that their concerns are being attended to as deserved.
Meanwhile, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said more money should be invested in historically disadvantaged tertiary intuitions such as the University of Zululand and Fort Hare so they could meet world university standard.
He said state government must not spend all the money on Victorian universities but must equip these underprivileged universities to be like Howard [University] in Harlem. “If we can’t do that, we are failing society,” he said.