#Fees2017: Don’t blame government, say Cosatu, SACP

Johannesburg - The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the SA Communist Party (SACP) on Wednesday urged protesting students to direct their anger towards private companies instead of at the government which they said has made strides in helping poor students.

The two organisations met in Johannesburg as the “left axis” of the Tripartite Alliance – which includes the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party – to discuss, among other things, the ongoing students protests.

UCT students react to the #Fees2017 announcement. Picture: Brendan Magaar. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

“The SACP and Cosatu are urging students to redirect their mobilisation at the exploiters of our education, training and labour. In this regard, the SACP and Cosatu will fight side by side with students,” said Cosatu General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.

Companies should use their wealth which was created by workers to make a “meaningful contribution” to education, the organisations said.

Cosatu and SACP said they welcomed Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement that poor students and those with a household income of less than R600 000 a year would not be affected by the 2017 fee hike.

They urged the State to speedily introduce a tax on the country’s wealthy citizens to finance education and that the judicial commission into higher education fees come up with a funding plan.

“The commission must develop measures to accelerate progressive roll out of free education for those who cannot afford. This is firmly in line with the Freedom Charter, the country’s Constitution and the ANC Polokwane resolutions.”

SACP deputy secretary Solly Mapaila rubbished the ANC Youth League’s rejection of Nzimande’s 2017 fee structure. The league on Tuesday slammed Nzimande for going against the ANC national executive committee (NEC) call for a no fee increase. The ANCYL’s views were “largely factional”, he said. Nzimande is also SACP secretary.

“This is a beginning of a roll out that government has in place for education, this a real beginning of massive roll out that reached almost 80 percent of poor students.

“This a largely factional view by the ANCYL and it is unfortunate … nothing that Minister Nzimande does is seen as good by the league. The ANC has issued a statement welcoming this intervention, we are therefore not worried about what the ANCYL says.”

Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini warned that the students’ protests faced “hijacking by detractors” taking advantage of the protesters’ genuine concerns.

“We support the PYA (Progressive Youth Alliance) and their course, they have done a sterling job leading from the front. The fight in some instances gets hijacked, the detractors will take these genuine concerns and run with them for their own benefit,” he said.

The PYA is an ANC-allied student movement consisting of the ANCYL, Young Communist League of SA and the SA Students Congress (Sasco).