UKZN: ‘Sick’ Malema fails to show up

2009-03-04 00:00

WHEN National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) president Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya finally got a turn at the podium yesterday, she used it to reiterate earlier calls by youth leaders for University of South Africa (Unisa) vice-chancellor Barney Pityana to be sacked.

Addressing workers and students at the University of KZN, Pietermaritzburg campus, yesterday, Mayende-Sibiya said the head of SA’s largest university is using institutional resources to canvass for opposition party Congress of the People (Cope).

“We are calling for Barney Pityana to leave Unisa,” she said. “We were at Unisa yesterday [Monday] where we handed a memorandum to the chair of the university council.”

Mayenda-Sibiya said Unisa is “not playing its role of ensuring it is transformed” and the institution is being led by a “person who is mobilising and organising for a particular political party”.

“We are not saying that people must not join political parties of their choice. No. We can’t say that… but they can’t use resources of an institution for political purposes.”

In addition to calling for Pityana’s immediate removal, the Nehawu president said the union is campaigning for a national bargaining council to unite all universities and achieve “real” transformation in higher education. She also urged members to campaign and vote for the ANC.

In a hall initially packed to capacity, many of the younger members in the audience left when it was announced that ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema would not make an appearance as billed.

KZN ANCYL chairman Mxolisi Kaunda had the unenviable task of breaking the news to the audience that Malema was “sick”. When the crowd expressed some displeasure, he said: “An apology from our leader deserves to be accepted.”

Kaunda said that despite being “under attack” from some quarters, Malema is a “mature cadre” who is “driving a clear organisational programme of the youth league as its president”.

Kaunda took a swipe at Pityana, calling for a “thorough assessment” of vice-chancellors’ performance with regard to institutional transformation. “If a person is deployed with the objective of transforming higher education in South Africa, and he fails, he must be removed…”

Kaunda was followed by South African Students’ Congress secretary-general Magasela Mzobe, who claimed that Unisa students are being denied access to study material while their vice-chancellor is co-ordinating Cope’s candidate list process.

Describing the election campaign as a “ formality”, Young Communist League national secretary Buti Manamela told an appreciative audience that there is no one better to lead South Africa than Jacob Zuma. Referring to the alleged leadership tussle within Cope, Manamela said there is no confusion in the ANC about who’s photograph will go on the ballot paper.

Yesterday’s meeting started at noon, but main speaker Mayende-Sibiya took the podium only at about 2.45 pm owing to a full line-up of speeches, introductions and singing and dancing. The workers present seemed in no hurry to leave. A local shopsteward told The Witness he had the day off and would return to work only the following morning.

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