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The doors of Learning And Culture should be opened!

16 February 2010

On the 11th of February 2009 we addressed workers and students at the Tshwane University of Technology. Our main reason for going to Tshwane University of Technology was centred on the need to stop the strike and allow students to continue with their studies, while workers fulfil their responsibilities. In solidarity with workers and students, our main and central focus was to achieve the following:

  • Immediate settlement with workers and students on all the issues they have raised.
  • A clearly defined and focused programme to catch up on the registration backlogs.
  • Removal of all the Bouncers and armed policemen patrolling the University of Technology and using force and rubber bullets to scare workers and students.
  • Re-opening and normalisation of the University of Technology before the end of the week.

Further to this reality, we went to TUT to spread the message that the African National Congress cares about the education of all people wherever they are found. The ANC is saying that (as priority) the doors of learning and culture should be opened for all. So we went to TUT to ensure that the doors of learning and culture are opened.

Our principle in ensuring that the doors of learning and culture are opened in TUT was and remains that workers should not be compromised. We had two options towards the resolution of the TUT situation. The first one was to convince workers to surrender their rights and demands and concede to what the TUT management was proposing as way forward. This could have meant that TUT goes back to normality, whilst some of the workers, particularly in lower ranks took salary cuts and suffered more than they were under the already meagre salaries. The second option was to strengthen the voice of workers and students and ensure that their grievances are understood and management concedes to workers` demands and all goes back to normal. We decided to take the workers` and students` side and put more pressure on management to understand what was needed. There are notably other consequences which could come with this solution, yet we chose this option as the best way to resolve the situation in TUT. In whatever we do, our bias to the working class and the poor will never be compromised. That is why we said in our address in TUT that: "We as the Youth League prioritize the interests of the working class, we don`t work with capitalists, we can never be referred to as capitalists, we are the working class ourselves; we are the children of the poor. We know what it means to sell your labour; therefore you must never be confused by anybody who seeks to suggest that we are conniving with management. We are conniving with the workers, because you are in majority and they continue to give themselves bonuses and look down at the majority of our workers".

Without doubt the situation and environment in TUT was politically charged and heated with students and workers raising their fists against the undeniably intransigent and counter-transformational TUT management. No sound reason can be given by anyone that the institution could be closed for more than 14 days of the institutions` most important days on its own Calendar. These are the days where new students should be orientated to the institution and integrated into a new learning and teaching environment.

Some of these students are those assisted by the ANC YL referral and assistance programmes, and from very poor backgrounds. Most of these had to make many sacrifices to find themselves in Pretoria West, Soshanguve, Garankuwa, Nelspruit, Emalahleni and Polokwane, searching for education, training and development. These students are seeking education, not intimidation by the police and super-huge bouncers. They were seeking comfort, not eviction into the streets and police brutality unleashed, even on disabled students.

The other situation that made TUT protest environment to be highly politically charged and heated was the reality that we are currently in an election period, and some students believed that the ANC government was not doing enough to open thedoors of learning and culture in TUT. A perception, most likely correct was that the department of education was being inactive to the TUT impasse. During our presence in TUT, an insignificant number of students, mainly from the PAC, IFP, NADECO, UDM and AZAPO affiliated students` formations were chanting slogans against the ANC YL, mainly on thepremise that we are part of the problem and not intervening to stop the strike as a youth wing of the ruling party.

In response to this sentiment, we said: "Why should we put the interest of our parties first? We must put the interests of thestudents first, and the interest of the workers first. We are going to meet with the Minister of Education, we need immediate intervention and not because we are from the Youth League, we are going to be nice to her". We called for an urgent intervention from the Minister of Education, as this is the terrain that requires intervention, particularly when and where institutional managers are failing. TUT managers and Council dismally failed to resolve the situation, so higher authority was required.

In calling for the intervention, we made an uncalled for remark which we will never ever repeat in reference to anyone, including here. The remark we made was indeed uncalled for and we came to such realisation even before the media went to town with the whole remark. We called the Minister of Education to convey our most since apologies and indicated that we did not mean to cast aspersions about her performance as a Minister, nor question her standing as a member of theAfrican National Congress, teacher, a cadre of the movement and a Mother. Comrade Naledi Pandor`s commitment to theFreedom Charter and ideals of the ANC is undeniable.

We have acknowledged that we made a mistake, hence our unconditional apology to the Minister for the uncalled for remark. Nevertheless, we made the mistake on the line of duty, when we were pronouncing for the opening of the doors of learning and culture. We did not make a mistake in a shebeen, but in the institution of higher learning. The mistake we made was in an institution of higher learning, where we were calling for management to understand and concede to the interests of workers and students. We were in an institution that provides education, skills, expertise and knowledge for our people and this is one of the ANC priorities. We were doing work of the movement and showing the people that indeed the ANCcares.

We have apologised and believe that all genuine people will understand that we have humbled ourselves and apologised. We have learnt a great lesson from the whole situation, particularly the response we got the Minister of Education, Mama Naledi Pandor-Thanks to her. We hold her in high regard and will continue to cherish the work she does as a leader of theANC.

There is nothing wrong with apologising when we make mistakes, and there is nothing wrong with admitting when we have done something wrong. We also apologise to all who got offended by the uncalled for remark we made, and there is nothing wrong with that. Society should always include people who admit when they have made mistakes and be prepared to learnfrom them. We have indeed learnt a great lesson, and we should not be criminalised for rendering a sincere and unconditional apology.

When all is said and done, we should go back to TUT and interact with all stakeholders in ensuring that the institution is brought to normality again. TUT is one of, if not the biggest contact institution of higher learning in the country and we can never allow a situation where the institution is closed even for a single day. We should always stay focused and ensure that education is indeed a priority in the whole of society. The doors of learning and culture should be opened.


Julius Malema