Nzimande, SAFTU clash over student protests ’soap opera’ metaphor
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PRETORIA, March 26 (ANA) – Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has hit back at the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) after it called for his resignation for likening recurring student protests to long-running television soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.
Referring to frequent protests by students pressing for free tertiary education in recent years under the #FeesMustFall banner, Nzimande told Parliament’s education committee: "I'm concerned, every year it’s like a soapie now, the Bold and the Beautiful.“
The remark has sparked fury on social media, with some users slamming Nzimande as arrogant.
SAFTU said Nzimande was reckless and must step down for likening students exercising their democratic right to demand equal access to education for all to a soap opera.
“In 2016, at the height of #FeesMustFall, he recklessly made a comment that “students must fall”. Indeed, many students fell in a hail of police rubber bullets, whilst the education of other students was compromised by arrests, imprisonment and suspensions,” SAFTU said.
“It is disconcerting for the minister to be calling the fight for free education and against financial exclusions a “Bold and Beautiful soapie”. 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.”
Nzimande said the labour federation’s statement was “vacuous as it is an opportunistic attempt to grandstand on the basis of a deliberate effort to misconstrue his contribution to the central problem facing the higher education” and broader higher education and training system in South Africa.
“The minister is absolutely clear about what he said and meant by his metaphoric reference to a ‘repeat soapie’, that the higher education system must be supported with proper funding to support government policy on fee free higher education for the working class and poor if we are to avoid an endless and predictable cycle of instability at our campuses,” a statement from the higher education, science and innovation ministry said.
“The minister’s metaphor, to make it absolutely clear, was not directed at discrediting student struggles for equality, which he full supports, but at the system that forces this repeat cycle of conflict and instability at our institutions.”
Nzimande said he was willing to meet the federation “if SAFTU has real concerns and issues regarding developments in the post school education and training sector”.
– African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa