Johannesburg – Students should not look to Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande for guidance in their quest for free education, said religious leader and former Fees Must Fall mediator at the University of the Western Cape, Xola Skosana.
“He [Nzimande] turned the students’ outcry into a joke, and lost all his integrity,” Skosana told News24.
Skosana said he believed there was no clear way forward. Some students were already threatening to shut down campuses while management at some institutions have put contingency plans in place ahead of an announcement by Nzimande on how much more students might have to pay for their education next year.
The minister postponed a media briefing scheduled for Friday to make the announcement, following a meeting with vice chancellors and student leaders.
“Things can erupt in an organic manner. Anything can happen; look at the levels of unhappiness in this country and its history. If something happens it will be so ugly, worse than last year’s protests," Skosana said.
He didn't believe Nzimande should still be in charge of the higher education portfolio.
“He should have been removed right there, when issues started. I told religious leaders we should call for Nzimande to go, he is part of the problem 'cause he failed to step up when he needed to.”
But the ministry of higher education questioned Skosana's comments, with its spokesperson, Khaye Nkwanyana, saying the community leader was out of order.
Easier to be a populist
“The minister is engaging with everyone, including the Council of Churches. His [Skosana's] comments don’t hold water. [It was] far from the truth,” he said.
Nkwanyana said the minister had allowed vice chancellors some time to brief and discuss his proposals with their councils. He said Nzimande cared about the fees issue and was acting with the students’ needs in mind.
“He asked that there be no real increase, but just to adjust in line with inflation. Why push the councillors to accept such a low deal if he is insensitive?” Nkwanyana asked.
He said it was easier to be a populist like Skosana and attack someone who was trying to find a solution.