Hear our pleas, and the pleas of our struggling parents, Dr Nzimande!

2015-10-20 16:21
Blade Nzimande. Picture: Nelius Rademan

Blade Nzimande. Picture: Nelius Rademan

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A Rhodes University student put pen to paper about the plight facing students - and parents - with the looming fees bill at tertiary institutions. Read the open letter, addressed to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, here. The letter was originally published on Activate Online, Rhodes University's independent student news source.

Dr Nzimande,

If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath and, before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.- Daniel Quinn‘s The Story of B

Last night when I messaged my mother that the students were able to successfully negotiate the evasive MIP system away, my mother replied: “Thanks guys… I can breathe now.” In case you are unfamiliar with the term, the MIP was a Minimum Initial Payment which constituted a lump sum of 50% of the annual tuition fees that had to be paid before registration halfway through January at every year.

This would mean parents and guardians had a lump sum of R40 000+ due before one has even registered for a single course. This MIP system has finally been abolished for the more practical registration system used by most universities across the country.

Dr Nzimande, as the general secretary of the South African Communist Party I’m assuming you understand the role of the proletariat in developing countries. I’m also assuming that you seek to empower these individuals. We have not taken to the streets for ourselves only, we are doing it for our parents too.

The working class of South Africa cannot afford to send their children to universities. We live pay-cheque-to-pay-cheque, we learn not to answer the land-line during working hours because we don’t have the answers for debt collectors. The black middle class – ANC’s proud straight A child - struggles to keep their heads above water and maintain their newly acquired suburban lives.

Your education system that ensures that the rich remain rich, that the not-so-poor are riddled with debt and the poor are given very little prospects of hope Where are you Dr. Nzimande when this system that has operated for almost two decades now continues to violate the livelihoods of the population you are responsible for?

Where have you been Dr. Nzimande? We’ve seen you playing the blame game with university management in media statements and probing the private sector to intervene. What exactly is your role as the minister of higher education Dr. Nzimande?

Clearly there’s a national crisis at university level that needs to be addressed by the national authority. Just yesterday you dismissed the fact that the protests were at a critical level and shared your sympathies and concerns for us at this particular time.

You and your fellow comrades make it blatantly obvious that you are so out of touch with the realities of the South African population.

We don’t need your sympathy we need you to engage with us - not the media. We need to know that our supposed government representatives are putting every effort into establishing a financially inclusive model of tertiary education. Your recent proposal of community based colleges failed to address the financial crisis of universities today. Dr. Nzimande it can’t be that you envisage university as a privilege afforded to the empowered minorities and elites, is it?

We too are worried that the protests will disrupt exams. Disrupting exams is not our goal. It would be counterproductive to denounce the educations systems continuous efforts to deny us our education and then self-sabotage. Unfortunately, the timing is dangerously close to the exam period but the ball is now in your court. It would be in everyone’s best interests that your meeting with university Vice-Chancellors in Cape Town today will be fruitful.

The South African Police Service is the only form of government that has found it appropriate to actively engage with the students.

Police actions towards students in the past days have made it very clear that police do not seek to protect the students. They have drawn a clear line between them and us. Our optimism for a better day expressed in song and dance is met by smirking faces waiting for us to slip up. Fortunately, our Vice-Chancellor at the university currently known as Rhodes University made it clear that police force is not necessary on the university campus.

Our fellow students at UCT are unfortunately not afforded the same protection from their management.


The media has a unique talent for depicting the worst of our demonstrations. We are tired of being portrayed as an angry black mob with no tact or cause. Villainizing a group of protestors is an old and unjust tactic. Our cause is noble.

The wind of change is blowing through this continent and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it.- Harold Macmillan, 1960

General Secretary of the South African Communist Party since 1998! Minister of sports and recreations Mr. Mbalula recently called the Springboks the “old crock squad” perhaps he should sneak a peek at parliament and the political elites of this country for a clearer definition of the term.

The youth of this country are unmoved by political factions and the general circus that has come to define the political scene. It would be foolish to take this as purely an issue of tertiary education the recent university protest speak to the destitute socio-economic conditions in South Africa that have been fuelled by the severe lack of political will.

We are the born free.

We are the educated.

We are looking to build a society that is fair and just for all.

Fellow students at UKZN have been protesting for years. But media and public opinion have continually undermined their plight.

Now that our cries are being heard from Durban to Stellenbosch,

We would love to know if you are coming to the party, Dr Nzimande?

A Luta Continua.

Read more on:    blade nzimande  |  protests  |  education  |  university fees

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