Address by Gwede Mantashe, delivered at the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North West University
2 August 2013
Members of the student movement,
I greet you all in your name.
Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity you afford me to engage with you.
Let me begin with an attempt at locating my input within our theoretical and philosophical concepts of struggle. I will begin with the topic you have presented to me, that is, Education as a site of struggle.
We move from a viewpoint that education is, by its nature, ideological. Various ideological underpinnings inform education, which is a means to give guidance to society`s behaviour and thinking, whether through human interaction and endeavours.
At a broader level, some will probably even suggest that technically, education is a site of struggle. Nevertheless, such a framework can also be misleading.
In our understanding, education is a terrain of struggle instead of a site. This is borne of the view that a terrain is much broader and all-encompassing. Usually the engagement at this level is fought at a theoretical, conceptual and abstract level. The vision of society, which is borne of an ideological outlook, is contested in the sphere of education.
Under apartheid, education was a site for contestation of power, where progressive student formations were part of the liberation forces. Student struggles were about a free and better education, accessible to all without regard of race, class and belief. This ideological outlook stood in contrast to apartheid education and, in particular, Bantu education. Consequently, we can emphatically say, education is a contested terrain.
A site, on the other hand, is a specific location within which this contest ensues and is pursued. In the context of education, such a site of struggle is a school, a college, technikon, university, etc. This is where the ideology is fought through day-to-day struggles of learners, students and scholars. When the country was generally ungovernable with every township and workplace being on fire, every campus was war zone. In the ultimate sense, the North-West University Vaal Triangle Campus is your site of struggle.
Given the above, we can therefore confirm that the forces of freedom and equality made advances through the initial victory of freedom. The attainment of freedom is the beginning of the long journey to genuine freedom. However, this does not suggest that the contest in education is over. Therefore, the question we should ask is: what does education being a terrain of struggle mean in a free and democratic context? What does this translate into for campuses, such as yours, and schools?
In the first instance, there must be a paradigm shift in and among the liberation formations. They must reorient themselves from being forces of resistance to forces of change and transformation.
Education must produce intellectual capacity for the revolution. Any revolution is as successful as its ability to generate its intellectual capacity. Our aspirant intellectuals must not be in grievance mode but be thirsty for knowledge and use that knowledge to advance the cause of the class they organically come from. The struggle now should be about the contest of ideas and ensuring that the ideological outlook resonant with the liberation movement is hegemonic. Our ideas can only dominate if we are leaders and respondents in the contemporary public discourse.
At campus level, SASCO and the Progressive Youth Alliance should take up daily issues of students. They should lead students in their fight against injustice. This is advocacy for militancy and not anarchy. Mathematically anarchy is militancy minus discipline.
Students must be supported when they demand free education for those studying for their first degree. Access to education, with greater emphasis on access for children from poor households, should remain your priority.
We are pleased with the increase, tripling over the last nineteen years, in the university student population. The number of graduates who graduated in 2012 is double that of those who graduated in 1995. It is this progress in education that translated into the black middle class growing by 250% over the last ten years.
We should, however, analyse the notion of beneficiaries of freedom being said to be hostile to the movement and unable to relate with the struggle. In this regard, we should support the teaching of history as a compulsory subject. This will help our young people develop a spirit of patriotism. Any nation that does not know where it comes from is like a tree without roots. Students have the responsibility of building the future. They are the hope for a bright future. They are an investment and not a cost to the country. But this can only be a reality if the students take their role seriously.
Earlier I said it is the responsibility of the progressive student movement to take up issues affecting students. We said it also in the context of your campus being a site of struggle. You, as students, are responsible for keeping alive the debate on the transformation of the Potchefstroom campus. You must ensure that it being a lily white campus is on your agenda. We must cut through the numbers, based on black students in the Vaal or Mahikeng campuses. Transformation is about riding ourselves of racism. Students must continuously sharpen our revolution and develop forms of fighting the three contradictions of racial discrimination and oppression, class exploitation and patriarchal power relations in society.
Our ability to take up these issues will make you relevant for a long time. I like the latest constitution of the SRC in Fort Hare. It links servicing the SRC to the academic performance of every student leader. Serving in the SRC must be about providing service and leadership and being exemplary in behaviour.
It is the duty of the Progressive Student Movement to ensure that students participate in current debates. The debate about the NDP belongs to the campuses of our country. There should be senior students who are researching the NDP, its objectives and the proposed solutions. It is you who should be engaged with the development of programmes for the implementation thereof.
The Progressive Student Movement must lead the renewed debates around the Freedom Charter. It is the academic research and activism at the campus level, which will determine the implementation of the provisions of the Freedom Charter.
The Freedom Charter says mineral wealth below the surface of the soil will belong to the people as a whole. How far did the promulgation of the Mineral and Petroleum Development Act go in the implementation of this provision in the Charter? The promulgation of the Royalties Act took this work a further step forward. When the Freedom Charter says the land shall be shared among all those who work it, the emphasis is on giving those who have passion and love the land access to it. Otherwise we can create weekend farmers, instead of real ones.
In the ultimate sense, the clause The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened to All, can only be realised when you take the battles thereof at the campus level.
The required academic, intellectual and technical skill developed at this level should defend and advance the vision contained in the Freedom Charter.