Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has said his comments likening student protests to a US soapie were not directed at “discrediting student struggles”.
On Tuesday, Nzimande told Parliament’s Higher Education Committee yearly student protests were like soapie. The Bold and the Beautiful, bringing instability to the beginning of every year.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, said Nzimande’s words were “not directed at discrediting student struggles for equality, which he fully supports, but at the system that forces this repeat cycle of conflict and instability at our institutions”.
“The minister is absolutely clear about what he said and meant by his metaphoric reference to a ‘repeat soapie’, that the higher education system must be supported with proper funding to support government policy on fee-free higher education for the working class and poor if we are to avoid an endless and predictable cycle of instability at our campuses,” the statement read.
Nzimande also took the opportunity to lash out at the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), who called for his resignation after his comment.
“In the middle of a battle that is being waged against financial exclusions in pursuit of free education, the ‘communist’ minister Blade Nzimande has recklessly likened the students’ efforts in exercising their democratic right to demand the basic education right, a ‘soap opera’,” Saftu said in a statement.
The union described Nzimande as “an agent of austerity beating students into accepting government’s programme of stealing their future”.
“For a minister who is the general secretary of the Communist Party to make remarks that undermine the efforts of students to free, quality education and underplay the need for such education is shameful. As a communist, he should be the one championing the realisation of free education, not mocking students for demanding what he should be doing,” the statement read.
However, Nzimande dubbed Saftu’s statement “vacuous” and an “opportunistic attempt to grandstand”.
“Saftu’s statement seeks to rubbish the significant advances made by the ANC-led government since 1994 in progressively expanding access to, and success in, both universities and colleges across the breadth of South Africa…
“Central to these strides by government have been major advances in promoting a strong working class and poor bias in the expansion and outcomes set for the PSET system. We are equally clear that this is a historical process that will take years to complete, but our commitment to its full realisation is unquestionable,” Nzimande said.