Minister: No matric, no shame

2014-08-02 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The new Police minister is not shy to admit he failed matric twice.

In fact, minister Nathi Nhleko’s third try was also unsuccessful and he never got a matric.

Nhleko, who nevertheless achieved a Masters degree in leadership and change management and a labour law diploma later, told sister paper Beeld he has never made a secret of his education.

As a young political activist, frequently detained during his high school years, he faced a difficult choice.

“I was locked up when I was supposed to be writing matric. The security police offered to let me write, to make sure I passed and to give me a degree in political science if I would work for them. I told them I wouldn’t do it.”

DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard recently mocked Nhleko in Parliament, saying “he battles to use a microphone because he’s uneducated”. She claimed he left school in standard nine and had no further qualifications. She was obliged to withdraw the remarks.

Nhleko told Beeld that although he did not have a matric, he was admitted to Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK after his life experience and other factors were taken into account.

Laughingly, he recalled security police referring to him as, “that guy who’s writing matric as if it were a university degree”.

He said he’s is not ashamed to talk about the matric certificate he never got. “If anyone wants to discuss it, that’s okay. I don’t have a problem with it, but I’m sure [Kohler Barnard] doesn’t want to hear what the majority of us went through in those years.

“Still, it’s odd that people who were privileged by apartheid would want to make that point, while others were denied opportunities. They stand on the other side and laugh at those who were victims. I think South Africans need to have a very honest discussion about this, because what she did was not right,” said Nhleko. “It’s like cutting off someone’s legs and then laughing at them when they can’t run a marathon.”

Nhleko said there are many other people who failed to get a matric for the same reasons as him. “I have never refused to talk about this and I always will, if anyone wants to listen.”

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