Statue vandalism part of a larger narrative, says Nzimande

2015-04-08 16:18
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GALLERY: Protesters chain themselves to Paul Kruger statue

Protesters have chained themselves to the Paul Kruger statue in Pretoria in response to the defacing of the statue. View the pictures here.

Johannesburg - Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande on Wednesday condemned the vandalism of colonial statues, but said that a larger narrative needed to be discussed.

Addressing a gathering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville Campus, Nzimande said the issue of the statues was the tip of the iceberg.

“I believe that the statue struggle is a proxy struggle about transformation. The real underlying issue here is transformation,” said Nzimande.

The minister said he welcomed the position taken by the students in demanding the removal of the statues of Cecil John Rhodes in Cape Town and King George V at UKZN’s Howard Campus.

“Vandalising and removing the statues will not erase the history of this country. Another thing that I am concerned about is the sudden resurgence of racism in the country. We don’t know, maybe the statues is a response to that.

“Most of the statues are offensive to the people that suffered under apartheid. I say that let’s remove them and store them somewhere. Let’s make this an opportunity to engage one another on the more serious issues that need to be addressed as a country,” said Nzimande.

He said he was happy that the issue had been raised by the university constituency, rather than government.

“The struggle of the statues is a proxy struggle that has me asking myself why do we have racism resurging after 21 years of freedom?”

The minister told the gathering that his visit had not been prompted by the statues, but he had come to engage and hear some of the concerns facing the university.

Nzimande said from 2007 to date, R586m had been allocated towards infrastructure development at the university.

“A total of 44 183 students were registered to study at UKZN in 2013. Of these, 58.4% were women and 41.6% were men. The student profile is interesting in that 66.6% were black, 24.5% were Indian, 6.4% white and 2.1% coloured. This reflects the demographics of this province fairly well,” said Nzimande.

However, he said the academic profile was still too white.

“We need to revitalise the academic profession and need to address the problem that our professoriate is still too white in South Africa.

"The department has developed the Staffing South Africa’s Universities Framework, which takes as starting point the urgent and challenging imperative to recruit, support and retain black female academic staff to address their very serious under-representation at all levels in the sector.”

He also addressed the issue of government’s student loan, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) which has to date supported more than 1.4 million students from disadvantaged homes.

“NSFAS doesn’t not have sufficient funds to enable all deserving students to be supported,” he admitted adding that he did not expect students to destroy infrastructure because they had been denied funding.

“It’s like a community that destroys a library when there are no services in the community, that does not make sense. And it is counter revolutionary,” Nzimande said.

The minister said the department was investigating corruption in NSFAS.

“We found out that some universities are selling NSFAS to students. We also know that some students are using the money to buy big television screens for their rooms and there are many more benefiting from NSFAS when they are not supposed to,” said Nzimande. 

Read more on:    blade nzimande  |  monuments debate  |  cecil john rhodes  |  education

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