Saftu calls on Nzimande to resign after likening students protests to soapie

On Tuesday, Nzimande expressed concern over the disruptions at tertiary institutions where students are calling for historic debt to be scrapped and for government to deliver on the promise of free education.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande at a media briefing on 18 January 2021. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) is on Thursday calling on Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to resign after he likened the protests for free higher education to a soap opera.

On Tuesday, Nzimande expressed concern over the disruptions at tertiary institutions where students are calling for historic debt to be scrapped and for government to deliver on the promise of free education.

“Every year, it’s like a soapie now, The Bold and the Beautiful, every beginning of the year there is instability,” Nzimande said.

READ: Nzimande 'anxious' to see shutdown of higher education institutions called off

Saftu's spokesperson Trevor Shaku said these statements were reckless.

He's pointed out that the minister should be fighting for free education instead of mocking those trying to hold government to account.

“He and the government that he is a part of actually represent the problem because the government is the one engineering the cut on public spending and services. Therefore, financial woes in higher education, which leads to exclusion, are mainly engineered by that.”

In a statement, Saftu said Nzimande should be championing for free higher education.

"For a minister who is the general secretary of the Communist Party to make remarks that undermine the efforts of students to free quality education and underplay the need for such education is shameful."

It said he must hang his head in shame for those utterances: "His utterances are blind and insensitive to the plight of students who face financial exclusions and deregistrations on a yearly basis. It is an insult to students who sleep on hungry stomach because of his failure to develop student accommodation as a minister of higher education. It has exposed them to highly inflated rentals charged by capitalists slum lords that depletes most their incomes."

TIMELINE: University students demand an end to financial exclusion

Meanwhile, Nzimande said it was not true that he was refusing to meet with students to discuss their demands.

The South African Union of Students has announced plans to march to the Union Buildings after the minster failed to pitch at a planned meeting over the weekend.

However, Nzimande said he already had several meetings with student leadership and had responded to the union's written demands.

Nzimande’s spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said: “Minister Nzimande has asked the universities to give him a detailed breakdown of the scale and nature of the student debt by the end of this week in order to facilitate further engagement on this matter. Furthermore, the minister urges student leadership to desist from manufacturing nonexistent conditions to justify the shutdown.”

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