Thursday, October 22, 2015

On Blade Nzimande and the crisis of Higher Education in South Africa! #ListenToTheKids

On Blade Nzimande and the crisis of Higher Education in South Africa! #FeesMustFall! #BladeMustGo and #ANCMustFall

Floyd Shivambu

With no intention to polarise the otherwise gallant struggles of all students mobilised under the #FeesMustFall movement, we should perhaps take a pause to reflect on the real objective and subjective politics behind the higher education funding crisis in South Africa. Those at the forefront of the students’ protests correctly proclaim that the #FeesMustFall movement is not a party political programme, but consolidated students’ action cutting across racial, political and class lines. Students with affiliations of different political parties are indeed at the forefront of the protests in many institutions of higher learning, and the demands are still centred on securing no fee increases for the academic year 2016, and variety of genuine workers’ demands.

Directing the protests to Parliament and demanding that Minister of Higher Education be held accountable is a commendable step because students are beginning to appreciate that the political ruling elite are the ones who are responsible for the higher education funding crisis in South Africa. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Higher Education under its inaugural and current Minister of Higher Education, the erstwhile Communist Blade Nzimande has dismally failed to provide clear direction on the question of higher education and students’ funding in particular. This is despite the so many calls and demands by successive students’ generations that the question of funding should be attended to. Thousands of campus based and nation-wide protests have been held to demand free education and against fees increase since 1994. Valuable infrastructure has been burnt into ashes, cars damaged, and libraries destroyed by students demanding free education and no to fees increase since 1994.

Let us take a pause to reflect. Of course I will share personal experiences because in my life I have been a branch Secretary, Chairperson of a student organisation (SASCO) and President of the Students’ Representative Council (Wits University), member of a Regional and National Executive Committees of a students’ organisation (SASCO). I also had the privilege to lead all SRCs students in the process that led to the formation of the South African Union of Students (SAUS), writing its inaugural Constitution and co-organising its founding conference. I was in the board of the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme between 2008 and 2012, and also served in the Joint Task Team of the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition from 2006 to 2009 representing students and youth. Throughout my student and youth activism, I consistently fought for free quality education, and partook in many protests demanding free education.

Higher Education ministry’s leadership, or lack of it, on the higher education funding mechanism and system is the major cause of the #FeesMustFall protests, which will escalate into violence and instability if not managed correctly. Whilst institutional managers and Vice Chancellors play a role, the lack of guidance and decisive leadership by the ministry of higher education deepens the crisis. There are various objective and subjective challenges that causes this crisis and here we will candidly reflect on them, and sometimes revealing the privy information we have access to. For this purpose, we will attend to the following: a) National Students Financial Aid Scheme, b) Higher Education Funding in general, and c) institutional mechanisms to foster real higher education transformation.

a)      National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme

Instead of resolving the higher education and vocational training funding crisis, the Ministry of higher education and current government continuously mention South Africa’s biggest loan scheme, the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which is inconsistently and badly managed across institutions of higher learning. There is absolutely nothing that stopped Blade Nzimande from addressing the higher education funding crisis in relation to NSFAS because his predecessors in higher education established the NSFAS Review process, which was largely ignored when the Ministry of Higher Education was established in 2009.

Instead of following a professional review process, part of Blade Nzimande did as the inaugural Minister of Higher Education was to cause instability in the leadership of NSFAS, which despite historical challenges was beginning to find stability. I am aware of this because in 2008, before Blade Nzimande was in government, I was appointed into the board of NSFAS by then Education Minister Naledi Pandor, after being nominated by the students and youth movement. When he became Minister, Blade Nzimande instructed all Board Members, who were in the middle of the NSFAS Review process and implementation of a Turnaround strategy to resign from the NSFAS Board. This was spearheaded by South African Communist Party Central (SACP) Committee Member Gwebs Qonde, who was mysteriously and undeservedly appointed Director General of the department of Higher Education.

I was personally instructed in December 2010 to resign by the DG Gwebs Qonde through telling me lies that they, as the Communist Party, intend to introduce free education through NSFAS, and that they are going to appoint ‘experts’ into the board. I obviously refused to resign because I am driven by an individual philosophy of not quitting: No surrender! No retreat! I told Gwebs Qonde in the NSFAS Board meeting that he is hypocrite, and should not engage in factional and potentially corrupt activities on issues relating to NSFAS, because NSFAS could be used as a vehicle to liberate many poor students. In all the board meetings I attended, I recurrently raised the issue of converting the loan scheme into a bursary and highlighted the fact that the threshold of students eligible for NSFAS has not been changed in more than 10 years. I served until the end of my term in 2012, and obviously could not be reappointed because I did not fit into the category preferred by the Communist Party, a category of clueless board members whose aim was about themselves and not students.

I vividly remember when Board members handed in resignations and new members were appointed into the NSFAS Board, and a common thread of all the new members of the board is that they, in one way or another, had links to the South African Communist Party. The central faces in the new appointments were Collette Caine (Blade Nzimande’s personal financial advisor and SACP Fundraiser), and ZB Sogayise, an indifferent and less informed former school principal from the SACP in Cape Mero with close links to the Director General of Higher Education, Gwebs Qonde.

Now, due to ZB’s lack of understanding of high level financial management and control at Board level, Collet Caine took control of NSFAS, and literally relocated to Cape Town to be closer to the office so that she could micro-manage the internal affairs of NSFAS. The then Chief Executive Officer Ashley Seymour, who was appointed by the previous board, was unceremoniously fired, and replaced by Nathi Khena, who was also fired in less than six months by ZB Sogayise and Collette Caine. The Board was later coerced to agree to the firing of Nathi Khena, and I voted against such. Nathi Khena was replaced by Msulwa Daca, who had been the Chief Financial Officer.

Under Collette Caine’s control of NSFAS, new arrangements were introduced such as Board fees, which never existed before, and travelling on business class, victimisation of Union leaders in NSFAS Offices, and all forms of social gatherings which Collette Caine would have with NSFAS Staff members loyal to her. Without venturing into unfounded allegations, the reality is that if there can be a closer and forensic examination of the doings and transactions in NSFAS during the period of the SACP deployees, a lot of questionable linkages between NSFAS and SACP Benefactors will be revealed. Amidst these, NSFAS went into a crisis which Blade Nzimande admitted to when announcing the appointment of the new Chairperson.

Collette Caine and ZB Sogayise’s interference with NSFAS was reported in the Mail & Guardian in June 2011 when Ashley Seymour, the CEO they fired took NSFAS to Court for unfair dismissal. The M&G report said amongst other things that, “Sogayise and Caine became “operationally involved within the organisation” and there was “a dramatic change in the workplace” involving the “creation of a hostile and intolerable work environment”, Seymour says. “It became apparent that [there was] a witch hunt against me.” (M&G, June 2011). The circumstances around the firing of Seymour’s successor, Nathi Khena were also mysterious and orchestrated by the Communist Party deployees in the board. In one of the board meetings, Khena complained about Caine and Sogayise’s micro-management of NSFAS affairs.

NSFAS’ plans for establishment of a central applications office lost direction and the conversion of loans into bursary scheme did not happen in the manner initially envisaged. The most tragic development out of all these though was the Board’s refusal to minute and implement our proposal that NSFAS should take over the debts of all academically deserving students who have been financially excluded, whether inside or outside the allocation criteria. Such a takeover would give financially excluded students access to their qualifications or academic records to continue with their studies or find jobs. The reality is that there are qualified students in South Africa who do not have their certificates of qualifications because they owe Universities tuition fees. Additionally, NSFAS’ failure to centralise applications and administration of the fund in order to avoid inconsistent selection and loan allocations criteria by institutions of higher learning.     

Whilst they over celebrate the R9 billion availed as loans to students, the massive administrative and political challenges imposed on NSFAS by Minister Nzimande and the Communist faction are heavy and disables the institution from performing its functions properly. In August 2015, when announcing the appointment of the new NSFAS Board Chairperson Sizwe Nxasana, Minister Nzimande pointed to the challenges confronting NSFAS, and mentioned the following:
1.      Failure of leadership to put in place an effective strategy to collect all revenue due to NSFAS. (Loan recoveries from student debtors have decreased significantly to R261.2-million in the 2014-2015 financial year from R372.3-million in the 2013-2014 financial year.) 
2.      The inability of NSFAS to raise funds as per its mandate. 
3.      Limited human resource and requisite expertise, and the capacity of management and leadership to ensure that the entity meets its mandate in terms of the NSFAS Act. 
4.      The entity has not been able to ensure that adequate and skilled resources were employed and has put the operations of NSFAS at considerable risk. 
5.      Failure of leadership and management to effectively provide oversight and manage financial and performance reporting, compliance with relevant legislation, lack of internal controls and policies to govern its operations, which opens up the entity to fraud at the NSFAS and institutions. 
6.      The NSFAS has not developed supportive relationships with its stakeholders and donors, and measures to improve the administration of donor funding take significant time to bear fruit, to the detriment of eligible students.

What Minister Nzimande did not do is reveal that the administrative crisis and challenges in NSFAS were his and the DG’s own creation, of appointing cronies into the Board and failure to provide decisive direction on deliverables. Students have been compromised due to lack of adequate and proper political leadership. Here is a Minister of Higher Education who disregards skills and expertise and make nepotistic appointments, and raising suspicions due to what he always said before the ANC 52nd National Conference in Polokwane. Before Polokwane and his campaign for the SACP written Alliance pact with the ANC, Nzimande would always say that “it cannot be correct that we all go hunt for nogwaja (rabbit), and once we caught it, only ANC leaders are the ones who eat, whilst we only get bones”. Those who understand parables will know what this means, but it looks like NSFAS was being turned into nogwaja for Nzimande and the SACP.

b)     Higher Education Funding:

In December 2012, the Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Derrick Swartz presented a report on the feasibility of free education and it still has not been released, despite the fact that the report said free higher education is feasible. This might seem improbable for a Minister who was mistaken for a revolutionary and champion of free education, but the reality is that a thorough study was conducted on provision of free education and Minister Blade Nzimande is hoarding the report. It is highly possible that Nzimande has not yet read the report because he rarely pays attention to details, does not attend to his ministerial responsibilities, except ones which bring him immediate private benefits. Why would a Minister deprive the higher education fraternity an opportunity to deliberate on introduction of free quality education, whilst the organisation that deployed him resolved to gradually introduce free education for the poor until undergraduate level in its 52nd National Conference?

In the 53rd National Conference of the ANC, a resolution was taken that “the policy for free higher education to all undergraduate level students will be finalised for adoption before the end of 2013”. This was after noting that “University education is costly and academically capable students from poor families should not be expected to pay up-front fees in order to access higher education”. All these resolutions have not been implemented, and there is a person whose role is to implement such resolutions. Again, it is possible that Minister Nzimande has not read these resolutions, because there is no immediate personal benefits for him or the Communist Party.

South Africa’s Constitution gives Ministers powers to table legislation in Parliament and the current budget allocation process demands that Ministers and their departments should present detailed plans on what their funding needs are in any given financial year. The final budget then becomes the product of what Parliament has approved from departments. Minister Blade Nzimande and his department have never asked for additional money to finance free higher education, except for the normal inflationary adjustments. There was never a time where additional funding to ease the burden on students were asked from Parliament. Asking for money from Parliament is a political function of Ministers and Nzimande has not done so.

Higher Education should be radically funded and existing institutions of higher learning expanded to absorb more students. When many students struggle to pass and attain their qualifications due to inadequate learning, teaching, and research support, there are many others who are waiting on the long queues trying to gain access to higher education, yet cannot because there are no sufficient spaces in institutions of higher learning. The highlight of what we previously presented to parliament reflects the following:
University of Stellenbosch
23 818
4 900
University of Cape Town
23 600
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
54 000
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
31 601
Durban University of Technology
79 000
Mangosuthu University of Technology
40 000
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
31 620
5 850
University of KwaZulu Natal
90 000
8 400
North West University
23 200
9 471
University of Zululand

This trend reflects in all institutions of higher learning, and Blade Nzimande’s leadership on this crisis is introduction of two new Universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape, which can only take up to 10 000 students in 10 years’ time, whilst only accepting less than 3000 students combined. When we criticise this, Nzimande resorts to his belittling retorts and even threatens violence as if he knows anything about violence. The question of where was he has still not been answered.

As a matter of fact, the cost to run all institutions of higher learning in a way which will provide free education is less than R50 billion, and through proper prioritisation, the current budget of the State can afford R50 billion for higher education. What this requires is political will and commitment to introduce free quality education for all, and it can be achieved. If government’s political will has directed it towards the Nuclear Build programme, which will possibly be completed when they are all no longer in government and at double or triple R1 trillion bill, the same will can be directed to provision of free quality education for all.

There should never be an assumption that provision of free quality education for all will happen at the expense of any other expenditure item, because education for any nation and country is a massive investment. Investing in education might lead to the development of innovative, productive and entrepreneurial population whose efforts and contribution will far outweigh the R50 billion initially invested. Also many other students will see the need to gain skills, expertise and education when such is fee free. Fees are a barrier to higher education and they must fall.

The Minister of Higher Education and entire ANC government has never tabled a proposal in parliament on how we should finance free quality education for all, despite that their own Conferences instructed them to do so. The crisis is therefore a political crisis caused by politicians who do not want to take responsibility and stay true to their own resolutions. If people fail to respect their own resolutions, it is difficult to expect them to respect other people’s resolutions. The ANC’s narcissistic belief and entitlement to political power in South Africa is the reason why they treat everyone with disdain. The disdainful and arrogant way individual Ministers approach key developmental issues, their incapacity and mediocrity have been institutionalised and currently defines the whole public sector, including government and parastatals. 

Every time the EFF raises the question of free quality higher education, Blade Nzimande consistently responds by saying that the Freedom Charter does not call for free higher education, taking advantage of the Freedom Charter sentence that says, “Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit”. There are various interpretations to this, but the commitment to provision of free quality higher education is an ideological and political commitment which has been resolved on many platforms.

If allocating money for free quality higher education from the current budget will lead into a fiscal crisis, the Minister of Education should mobilise the whole of society enactment of legislation which will allow for an education tax from all private corporations and individuals. Society is already mobilised behind the need to develop a funding model for education and with presentation of superior logic, society can be mobilised to support a special education tax, which will could be ring fenced specifically for the provision of free quality education for all. What this means is the corporates and individuals would take ownership of higher education funding. South Africa is however leaderless on the education front and such will not be considered.

c)      Institutional mechanisms to foster real higher education transformation

Because government is usually the biggest financial contributor to institutions of higher learning, it should put in place a mechanism on how institutions of higher learning should respond to the transformation objectives and goals. This of course should not undermine academic freedom, in the sense of what and how to teach. Academics and students should be allowed freedom of research and academic expression without dictates of wishes of the government of the day.

Nevertheless, there are specific issues that can be transformation goals and targets et between the department of higher education and institutions of higher learning on what is to be done. These could include concrete agreements on issues such as;
1)      Ending all forms of financial exclusions.
2)      Academic and research support programmes which will guarantee maximum success rates for students.
3)      Minimum standards on institutional infrastructure, food, and residences.
4)      Minimum standards on employment conditions and salaries of all workers employed by institutions of higher learning, which should ban outsourcing and labour brokering.
5)      Fair, balanced and responsive curriculum.
6)      Quantitative and qualitative expansion targets, goals and aspirations.
7)      Universities’ contribution to societal open education.

These and many others could play a significant role and could be established through deliberative means which involve all stake holders, inclusive of students, workers, parents, governments (local, provincial and national) and communities where the institutions of higher learning exist. This can be fostered through a properly structured dialogue, transformation charters and even legislation which binds institutions of higher learning to progressive developments.

This can only happen if South Africa is led by a responsible and responsive government. As a matter of fact, the country is politically on autopilot, and this is vividly evidenced by the ANC and Nzimande’s lacklustre attitude. It is a fat that Minister Blade Nzimande does not go to work, and is often in what qualifies to be social pleasure in hotels and other areas. Such conduct defines him and other members in cabinet who have no interests in the wellbeing of the people they committed to serve.


Well it’s somewhat polarising to say this now, but the reality is that the misguided belief that SASCO will turn things around because it is within the congress movement is illusionary. Generations after generations of students’ leadership and brilliant activists from SASCO have made exactly the same demands students are making today, and still there is very minimal changes in the higher education sector. The qualitative disparities between institutions of higher learning are still reflective of what the colonial-cum-apartheid past designed these institutions to be, fees are unregulated, exclusions happen every second day, and black students’ success is minimal.

The #FeesMustFall Movement should intensify the struggle to achieve 0% increase of fees in 2016 academic year, but all students should appreciate that even in the current rates, the fees are unaffordable even for working families. The message is simple: #ListenToTheKids! High fees also decimate the NSFAS Loans granted to students and often leave them with no residences, food, and books. Attaining a 0% increase will be a great achievement, but such should be escalated to demand for free quality education for all, illegalisation of financial exclusion, scrapping of all students’ debts and qualitative and quantitative expansion of institutions of higher learning.

As a matter of, Blade Nzimande and the current Higher Education Ministry as configured will not bring about the necessary revolutionary changes, and that is when all students will appreciate that #FeesMustFall should also be #BladeMustGo and the #ANCMustFall. Well, to his credit, Blade Nzimande is one of the 2 Cabinet Ministers with a Doctoral degree, yet he is an epitome of mediocrity, who specialises in shallow rhetoric. The #ANCMustFall because when they see students clad in SASCO and ANC T-shirts chanting slogans of #FeesMustFall, they think of all of those students as some wayward children who must be called to Luthuli House for some guidance. So #FeesMustFall, #BladeMustGo and #ANCMustFall. #ListenToTheKids!


Friday, September 18, 2015

We Are Not Sorry for Economic Freedom: #WeAreNotSorry

We are not sorry for the struggle for economic freedom:

Floyd Shivambu

The recent past Congress of the former ANC Youth League, which is now effectively the ANC Youth Desk confirmed the observations we made when we made the clarion call to Economic Freedom Fighters in June 2013. During that period, we made a correct observation that the expulsion, suspensions and what would later became dissolution of the ANC YL 24thNational Executive Committee was a right wing effort to illegally abort the struggle for economic freedom, which had been conceptualised by, canvassed for and gained solid ground in the former liberation movement by and due to the current leadership core of the Economic Freedom Fighters, notably its President and Deputy President.

It is an open secret that the ideological and political characterisation of the struggle as the struggle for economic freedom gained inspiration from various political streams, including the militant and fighting generation of founders of the ANC Youth League, the Cuban July 26 Movement, and notable African revolutionaries such as Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara and Amilcar Carbral. The political report to the ANC YL 24th Congress by President Julius Malema gave a clearer context. Perhaps we should do something uncharcatestic of revolutionaries, and state categorically that if it were not because of the current President and Deputy President of the EFF, the struggle for economic freedom would have not been conceptualised and gained momentum in and outside the ex-liberation movement in the manner and weight it has thus far

So when the imposed leadership of the ANC YL in KwaZulu Natal calls for Court action on the basis that the EFF plagiarised the struggle for economic freedom and the slogan of economic freedom in our lifetime, they should also state as to who of the individual members of the ANC YL conceptualised and came with the term economic freedom. It can never be correct that because we fought for economic freedom in the ANC YL, we cannot fight for it on other platforms, in the same way we fought for free education in COSAS and SASCO, and still fought for free education in all other organisations we led afterwards. In revolutionary practice, this is not referred to as plagiarism, but revolutionary consistency based on key principles, even on the face of adversity. The struggle for economic freedom is our idea and it is no possible to plagiarise our own ideas.

We still carry vivid memories of the meetings, congresses, platforms and even writing and electronic pads and computers where the struggle for economic freedom was conceptualisedand how it gained momentum. On the contrary, those who claim that we plagiarised have no political, organisational and ideological memory of where the struggle comes from. They waffle and spit self-contradictory slogans in the name of economic freedom with no recollection of where this comes from. It is understandable because some amongst them were flirting with the ideologically baseless and directionless Congress of the People (COPE), founded by a political elite which could not live with the otherwise electoral disaster of the 52nd ANC National Conference in Polokwane.

The struggle for economic freedom is so enormous a struggle to leave to ideologically shapeless and deformed organisations and self-seeking individuals, because it represents as turning point in the continued struggle for the total emancipation of the black majority and Africans in particular. The struggle for economic freedom and its original meaning is centred on the political determination of retention of the stolen land to the ownership of the people as a whole, without compensation. This pillar of the struggle for economic freedom was articulated with maximum clarity, even in the ANC, such that one of the charges on the then President of the ANC YL andCommander in Chief of the EFF Julius Malema was on the basis that he said whites are land thieves. During this period, there was no any form of ideological and political relationship with a section that later joined the EFF, and refers to itself as bearers of black consciousness and land activists.

Another important pillar in the struggle for economic freedom is Nationalisation of Mines and other strategic sectors of the economy. This pillar was our rallying call in the ex-liberation movement, which gained maximum momentum and weight in the ANC. In its 3rd National General Council in 2010, part of the resolutions of the ANC was that there was greater consensus on nationalisation of mines and other strategic sectors of the economy. There is no sober individual who can doubt the fact that this resolution came about as a result of concerted ideological and political work of the current leadership core of the EFF. By the way, the Commission that established great consensus on nationalisation of Mines, also resolved in principle that Section 25 of the Constitution should be amended to empower the state to expropriate without compensation.

The other equally important pillars in the struggle for economic freedom include our commitment to fighting for free quality education for all, building state capacity, and massive protected industrial development. Claiming to be fighting for economic freedom and even asking for copyrights of the struggle without an unwavering commitment to the struggle for expropriation of land without compensation and nationalisation of Mines and other strategic sectors of the economy is a pathetic misrepresentation and deformation of the struggle for economic freedom. Those who uphold the struggle for economic freedom should accept that it comes with these non-negotiable pillars. 

The ideological basis of this struggle was inspired by Kwame Nkrumah and the founding fathers of Africa’s political liberation. During that period, we said, “Vestiges of apartheid and colonial economic patterns, ownership and control remain intact despite the attainment of political freedom by the ANC led liberation movement. Political freedom without economic emancipation is meaningless”. Indeed, political freedom with economic emancipation is meaningless, hence the necessity for the EFF as an organisational platform to fight for economic emancipation in light of the absence of any organisation fighting for total emancipation.

The ultimate isolation, suspensions and banishment of the ANC YL leadership was due to the fact that our generation wielded tremendous ideological and political influence over the ex-liberation movement, and of course to the discomfort of incumbents. Such isolation and banishments are not ahistorical because in political history, establishments always banish and sometimes even assassinate revolutionaries who carry cogent ideas, such as Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Thomas Sankara, and Patrice Lumumba. We were also not shocked that such banishment will happen, because when he closed the 24th National Congress, then ANC YL President and EFF CiC said, “Me and you Floyd are not safe in the ANC”. Such reflected revolutionary foresight and deeper understanding that genuine pursuit of struggle can turn allies into enemies of progressive change. 

That we fought such struggle in a politically and ideologically autonomous, but organisationally dependent Youth League presented contradictory opportunities in light of an intolerant leadership of the mother body, the ANC. When they conceptualised the struggle as Freedom in Our Lifetime, involved the masses, and took up arms against apartheid, the founding generation of the ANC YL such as Nelson Mandela were allowed by the then leadership to exist, and were not heavily suppressed with banishments despite the fact that Freedom in Our Lifetime, Defiance Campaign and Armed struggle were not originally the political party positions of the ANC. The autonomy of the Youth League in that moment was elementary for all these to have a clearer direction.

Our unapologetic Youth League understood this and specifically stated that “the autonomy of the Youth League and generally young people in all revolutions is elementary to a revolution’s progress and success. Revolutions are by their very nature activities of young people, and marginalising young people merely into a preparatory arrangement within revolutionary movements stifles the political and ideological development of such movements. History proves that almost all if not all national liberation and revolutionary movements that do not have autonomous youth formations degenerate into insignificance with the passage of time”. This of course was never understood because the purpose of the liberation movement has been turned into defence of the economic elite and their appendages in political office and like on many other issues, history will absolve us.

When we debated the 2015 State of the Nation Address, we said that the conceptualisation of the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime came with us to the ANC, and we left with it after the banishment. We can rightfully state for the whole of South Africa, Africa and the world to know that the current leadership core of the EFF are the political and ideological leaders of the struggle for economic freedom under the clarion call for economic freedom in our lifetime.On a conceptual and political basis, the ex-liberation movement fought various struggles, but the struggle for economic freedom in the manner currently conceptualised is not one of those struggles.

The minions recently elected in the so called 25th Congress, which turned the once militant ANC Youth League into anANC Youth Desk carry no political, ideological and organisational capacity to give practical meaning to the struggle for economic freedom. This explains why the only significant memory and mark of the current crop of the ANC Youth Desk are commitments to expel those who disagree with them and raising of three fingers in the sky as an indication of retention of the status quo, because the status quo benefits white monopoly capital, and their rapacious political principals, the looters of provincial governments whose aim is to loot as much as they can at the expense of our people. The minions are nothing by a militia hired to defend greedy and corrupt ANC politicians who continue to drain South Africa of the much needed resources. 

The minions will be remembered for apologising on behalf of our generation of Youth Activists who fought for economic freedom inside the ex-liberation movement, and of course remembered for their vows to be submissive to Jacob Zuma, who is one of the most catastrophic electoral disasters in post-apartheid South Africa. We are not sorry for anything we did in pursuit of the struggle for economic freedom, and we will fight for the total economic emancipation of our people until victory. We are not slaves of old politicians who carry no vision and no plan for the economic emancipation of our people, we are torchbearers in the struggle for economic freedom and we will hand over the baton to coming generations who will inspire similar struggles in the entire African continent and the world. We remain unshaken and not sorry for the struggle for economic freedom! Victory is certain! #WeAreNotSorry!

Floyd Shivambu is Deputy President of the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hashtag: #WhereWasNzimande?



When Blade Nzimande was reported to have said that the Economic Freedom Fighters should be killed, we promptly and correctly dismissed him as an opportunist intellectual dwarf who do not have any sensible ideological and political programme to confront the EFF. What we did not do was to politically expose the nature, character and content of Blade Nzimande, reveal who he truly is. As will be seen through the exact historic schematisation of his political life, it is evident that Nzimande is a blatant opportunist who staff rode the liberation movement with empty and often confusing rhetoric which lack substance.

Bonginkosi Blade Nzimande was born in 1958 to an African who had economically migrated from a country that was later called Mozambique, and like me he is a descendant of Tsonga/Shangaan speaking migrants from Mozambique, only that I am a descendant of migrants who relocated in the early 17th century to the political territory called South Africa from 1910 onwards. There is completely no trace of his political activism and involvement in the struggle against apartheid, despite the fact that when the youth rose in Soweto and all other parts of South Africa against apartheid, Nzimande was 18 years old.

The paternal and ancestral origins of Nzimande should be revoked because the socio-economic conditions that led to the brutal xenophobic attacks of mainly Mozambican migrants are a direct consequence of the incompetence of a government he praises, and deceitfully refer to as progressive. As a matter of fact, if there were adequate jobs, houses, sanitation, water, and access to education for all in South Africa, xenophobic attacks against our blood brothers from all parts of Africa would not happen.  

Now coming back to the mysterious political life of Nzimande, we should state the obvious reality that the conditions of apartheid repression and suppression of apartheid laws in the 1980s had ignited the consciousness and moral obligation of all progressive youth to confront the apartheid regime, because they had nothing to lose but their chains. A substantial majority of the youth who confronted the regime in 1976 and joined UmKhonto WeSizwe and African People’s Liberation Army (APLA) were between the ages of 12 and 17, and where was Nzimande?

Many activists from KwaZulu Natal and those in institutions of higher learning in KwaZulu Natal, including Steve Biko were at the height of their political activism in the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO). Where was Nzimande? Solomon Mahlangu is two years older than Nzimande, and never had the opportunity to attend post-secondary education, but understood more than Nzimande that the major struggle was against the repressive apartheid regime, and understood that public administration and industrial psychology in a sick society had to come after liberation or infused in the struggle against apartheid. Where was Bonginkosi Blade Nzimande?

In 1976, Nzimande was accepted at the University of Zululand to study Public Administration and it is patently evident that the public administration he was studying was to prepare him to administer the Bantustans, not a post-apartheid South Africa because in his consciousness and conscience, there was nothing wrong with the apartheid South African society and administration. What was the curriculum content of public administration in a Bantustan University, which saw nothing wrong with apartheid laws and order?

Post 1976, youth activism rose dramatically in South Africa as South Africa’s youth rendered the apartheid machinery unworkable and ungovernable. All townships and towns had their own Youth Congresses, such that the biggest affiliates of the United Democratic Front were youth formations. Where was Nzimande? The United Democratic Front (UDF) was officially launched and founded in 1983 when Nzimande was25 years old. Was Nzimande in Cape Town when civil society and all progressive formations said no to apartheid?

As a matter of fact, in 1986, there were more than 600 Youth Congresses across South Africa, which mobilised all youth behind the banner of people’s liberation and the Freedom Charter. In all these Youth Congresses, the question is where was Nzimande? The South African Youth Congress went to its National Conference in 1987 in a secret location to fight for the freedom of all South Africans. Where was the 29 year old Nzimande?

From 1976, particularly after the Soweto June 16 massacre of defenceless youth, thousands of the youth from all across South Africa left the country to go join UmKhonto WeSizwe and APLA. Was Blade Nzimande part of the June 16 Detachment? No! The youth of Nzimande’s generation sacrificed their lives, dropped out of school, left their parents and homes to fight against the regime, but where was he? For someone who was a student in a University, studying social sciences, there is completely no way that he was not aware of the political turmoil that defined South Africa during his times, yet he never was part of the struggle against apartheid.

Proper class analysis reveals the obvious fact that in any class war, there can never be neutrality. As a matter of fact, even remaining silent and uninterested represents assumption of aclass position, and because he was not part of the struggle against the oppressive and exploiting class, the logical conclusion is that he was a collaborator in the same way Bantustan leaders were. After all, it is a fair political observation to define and categorise as charlatans and staff riders all of the so called Freedom Fighters and so calledRevolutionaries born after 1950, yet were never arrested, exiled, banned, banished, tortured, and terrorised by the apartheid regime, which regarded children as young as 12 as their enemy.

To his credit, perhaps we should state that the only political activism recorded of Nzimande during that period was when he partook in a hunger strike in the University of Zululand, fighting for tastier food. He recurrently recalls this ‘revolutionary’ strike because he was part of those whoprotested against the leaders of the strike who announced that even the newly offered food, still did not taste good. In 2015, students in institutions of higher learning he is supposed to lead as Minister of Higher education are not fighting for tastier food, they are fighting for basic food because they go lectures with empty stomachs, and do not even have money to buy books.

Many activists younger than Nzimande, including EFF Commissars Mlungisi Rapodile and Phillip Mhlongo joined UmKhonto WeSizwe at very early stages of their lives because they understood that the enemy had to be fought by all means possible. The absence of Nzimande in the struggle against apartheid does not define him only, but almost the entire leadership of the SACP, such as Senzeni Zokwana (National Chairperson ), Thulas Nxesi (Deputy National Chairperson), Jeremy Cronin (Deputy General Secretary) and Joyce Moloi (Treasurer). This explains why the SACP Central Committee Leaders’ faces glow in admiration and fascinationwhen the its 2nd Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila, a novice MK soldier who went to the camps in the late 1980s(when talks before talks for the dissolution of the MK and negotiated settlements were almost at the tail end), speaks about his less than three years military experience and how he was named Rush Phakisa.

When all signs were pointing to the end of apartheid, and possible political take over by the dominant African National Congress, Nzimande staff rode the liberation movement and acted as if he is a true revolutionary and communist. Staff riding is real in many liberation movements across the world.Nzimande joined the African National Congress in 1991 (after Mandela was released from prison), not because he was critical of its political and ideological posture, but because his consciousness and political awareness meant that he should be a member of another organisation, founded as a cultural organisation.  

The disastrous assimilation of Communist Party cadres into the neo-liberal project and agenda in the mid-1990s opened space for his election as General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, a calamity which has reduced the SACP into a faction inside the ANC fighting only to join the gravy train of the degenerating ANC. The differences between the ANC and SACP under Nzimande have never been on concrete and clear ideological and political questions, but onthe entryism formula which counts the number of quasi-communists that should be deployed to sites of power, meaning cabinet, mayoral and provincial executives’ positions.

This explains why after their Special National Conference, the major political issue on the agenda of the SACP is that the Economic Freedom Fighters, which is a Marxist-Leninist political movement, should be killed. How on earth can an organisation whose name suggests that it is in a class struggle suggest that a movement of the working class should be killed? We will never know, but those who fought against apartheid learned through experience the revolutionary skill and capability of identifying and characterising the enemy.Charlatans will never know, and almost always confuse political and ideological opponents as the real enemy.

Unfortunately, the SACP lacks the experience, the depth and revolutionary ideological capacity to identify, define and characterise the enemy. This fact we fearlessly articulated in the 2009 SACP Special Conference when exposing the ideological directionless of the Party under Nzimande. If they knew, they would know and understand that the enemy of progress in South Africa is white monopoly capital, which is using them (the governing Alliance) as nothing but an instrument to rule, exploit the class which a Communist Party is supposed to represent.

Of course, those dining under his table will rush to defend him and mention the fact that he was elected General Secretary of the SACP in 1998 and in all Conferences thereafter without contestation. Unfortunately, history always produces electoral disasters, and like Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Gwede Mantashe and many others, Bonginkosi Blade Nzimande is an electoral disaster and history will prove us right. The EFF will never be killed by electoral disasters. It will live forever and will legitimately take over political power, capture the State and deliver economic freedom for all. The hashtag is #WhereWasNzimande?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Zuma's incomplete history lesson:

Zuma’s incomplete history lesson:

Floyd Shivambu

While responding to the debates of the 2015 State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma went off script and gave a brief history lesson on the origins of the political territory known as South Africa today. In the history lesson, he correctly highlighted the key events and developments, including the many wars of resistance. He also illustrated the fact that the battle of Isandlwana was the most prominent of these wars, and acknowledged that in all the wars, the African majority were conquered.

President Zuma correctly highlighted that what was historically recorded as the Anglo-Boer War was actually the South African war, because all South Africans were involved and became casualties on both sides of the antagonistic forces. He correctly pointed to the reality that the settlement of the South African war led to the formation of the Union of South Africa, a whites-only State whose foundation was political exclusion of the black majority. Economic exclusion was, of course, characteristic of colonial conquest, even when the settlers came across (“discovered”) the mineral resources.

It is also correct that the formation of the South African Natives National Congress in 1912 (renamed the African National Congress in 1923) was in reaction to the Union of South Africa, and its primary and founding goal was to fight for inclusion into the Union of South Africa, hence the deputations and petitions to the colonial Britain by the founding leaders of the ANC to beg for inclusion. President Zuma is also correct to say that in the beginning the intention was not to fight, but was for inclusion into the colonised Union of South Africa. Petitions and deputations to the Queen in Britain was a form of acknowledging and legitimising colonial British’s authority over the Union of South Africa, which the educated and civilised black middle class and relative elites thought they should participate in.

The repression and exclusion indeed persisted for a very long time against the black majority and Africans in particular. Despite what was patently white supremacist suppression, oppression and segregation, the ANC adopted the Freedom Charter which says ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white’. This principle of the ANC led liberation movement defined successive generations of its leadership, and as Zuma said, underpinned Nelson Mandela’s commitment to non-racialism despite his incarceration in prisons and safe houses, including Robben Island, for 27 years.

Now, President Zuma ended his lesson there, cogently illustrating and describing an ANC which upholds non-racialism as its core principle. Of course, the history lesson was meant to assure the white minorities, who had over-reacted to his reductionist January 8 statement that the problems of South African began with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck. In assurance, he repeated that the Freedom Charter’s clarion call is that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

Of course, the Freedom Charter says that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, but that is not the only thing the Freedom Charter says and that is not what the liberation movement merely fought for. The Freedom Charter also says ‘the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industries shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole”. About the Freedom Charter, Nelson Mandela, the very same one who fought against WHITE DOMINATION, and ‘black domination’ said in 1956 that “It is true that in demanding the nationalisation of the banks, the gold mines and the land the Charter strikes a fatal blow at the financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude. But such a step is absolutely imperative and necessary because the realisation of the Charter is inconceivable, in fact impossible, unless and until these monopolies are first smashed up and the national wealth of the country turned over to the people[1]”.

Nelson Mandela said this to emphasise the point that ““The Charter is more than a mere list of demands for democratic reforms. It is a revolutionary document precisely because the changes it envisages cannot be won without breaking up the economic and political set-up of present South Africa[2]”. Whilst articulating what we, the contemporary Freedom Fighters conceptualised as the struggle for economic freedom, Nelson Mandela and the entire political and ideological literate of the liberation movement never used the concept of economic freedom in our lifetime. These Freedom Fighters however understood that political emancipation without economic emancipation is meaningless. The right to vote and assure minorities that they will not be driven into the sea is political freedom, but economic freedom is a struggle that seek to ensure that the wealth of our country is transferred and shared equitably amongst the people as a whole.

This notion was understood and internalised in the liberation movement, such that in 1969, the former liberation movement acknowledged in its 1969 Strategy & Tactics that “in our country - more than in any other part of the oppressed world - it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation”.

Simply put, this means that a South Africa whose economy continues to be owned and directed by those who did prior first elections is not a liberated country, does not represent even the shadow of liberation. In his own admission, Zuma indicated in the response to the SONA debates that less than 3% of the core of South Africa’s economy is owned by representatives of 80% of the population, the African majority. The only sound reason why such is the case is because the political elite, which is supposed to hold and exercise political power on behalf of the people is nothing but the executive that manages the common affairs of capitalists, who own 97% of South Africa’s economy.

Telling South Africa’s history and omit the reality that fundamentally, essence and pillar of white oppression and suppression was economic exploitation and exclusion of the black majority is treacherous. To tell the South African story and only end where it says “South Africa belongs to all who live in it” is reactionary. Ending the history of South Africa only with the non-racial character of the struggle is perhaps the major reason the country is in a crisis it confronts today, the crisis of continued black exclusion from the economy, such that government’s conceptualisation of economic activities in the township and rural communities is narrowly conceptualised as informal and small scale agriculture respectively.

Maybe South Africa should acknowledge and accept the fact that the original aim of the ANC, as emphasised by Zuma’s history lesson, was not to fight, but to participate in the political Union of South Africa. The reality is that the ANC lacks the ideological and political capacity to fight the struggle for economic freedom and dismally incapable of utilising legislation and other political power instruments to transfer the wealth to the people as a whole. Multi-national corporations continue to rob South Africa and the entire African continent of its natural, raw and now financial resources through unmitigated exportation of natural and raw wealth, and manipulation of the international trading systems through illicit financial flows, base erosion, transfer pricing, and profit shifting.

The ANC lacks the required sophistication to first understand these phenomena, and secondly, combat them in a manner that will lead to local beneficiation and industrialisation of raw and natural resources. The ANC lacks the capacity to curtail and stop massive illicit financial flows that rob our country of billions of Rands. There is only one movement that can do, and that movement is the Economic Freedom Fighters. Unlike all other political parties, the EFF is fearless, and rooted in the ideological commitment to economically emancipate the people of South Africa, Africa and the world through socialist development of the productive forces and socialised discontinuation of private ownership of exploitative capital. We are the ones you have been waiting for.

Floyd Shivambu is Deputy President of the EFF