The columnist says Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande is unfit for office and should resign

Dear Blade “Keep Walking” Nzimande

For far too long as a university student I have been silent about your vitriol and actions that are anathema to the ideals and principles of the field of academia.

Generally, you speak as though you are still only the secretary-general of the SACP, not the Minister of Higher Education as well; even so, if I were an SACP member I would be shivering in my boots over your Stalinist posturing.

I write to ask you to resign – or at worst be reshuffled out of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet – but I know that this is but a dream on my part, as you remain the chief lieutenant of the “Friends of Zuma”, now rebranded as “Abantu Bafun’ uZuma”.

I am not interested in drowning in Marxist drivel, or should I say balderdash? You and your SACP clique have been innovative with words and phrases such as “tenderpreneur”, “new tendency”, and “counter-majoritarian”.

However, what innovation have you brought to the ministry that you are tasked with, that of Higher Education and Training?

I write to you after having been alerted via a column written by Prince Mashele in Sowetan that you referred to analysts as dogs.

In my career as a student, I have had the pleasure of being taught by many well-read and learned scholars. I have also had the opportunity to engage in conversation and dialogue with some of the scholars that dedicate their lives to providing considered thought to the happenings in the political landscape in SA, Africa and the world at large.

Having observed, challenged and agreed with some of these analysts you now disgustingly label as dogs; I would be doing an injustice to my academic convictions, my societal activism and my commitment to uphold the constitution of this country, if I did not speak up.

One does not sleep expecting to wake up to such melancholy. Every day as people of this beautiful country we go to sleep charged with exuberance that a new and brighter future awaits us.

We do so because in our little ways we are contributing to the future of this country and hoping that one day the political leadership – the government that you are part of – will wake up with upright consciousness and conscience and be able to take us forward. Instead, you are an epic failure.

Blade “Keep Walking” Nzimande, as the Minister of Higher Education and Training you should be the number-one defender of the right to dissent.

Dissent should be – and is – a right in this country enjoyed by all citizens, as part of the right to freedom of association. When you have freedom of association, it also refers to freedom of association with a political party, religion, culture, ideology, and people.

Even you yourself – once described as “ultra-leftist” and later on as a “yellow communist” – chose to associate with the driving ideology of communism born out of Karl Marx’s writings, even though the party you serve in Parliament, the ANC, is much more inclined to Adam Smith’s writings with reforms from John Maynard Keynes. You are a living conundrum. You are Marxist in speech and so-called conviction, but you are capitalist in serving and practice. However, I digress.

In 2010, you lost two seasoned senior staff members, Mary Metcalfe and Ranjeni Munusamy: the former, over your many clashes and reportedly your ambition to have an SACP-related trip to Cuba funded by the department, and the latter over her displeasure at having a minister of such a crucial department being seen as one of the most fervent proponents of the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal.

This tribunal proposal was largely seen as a move by the Zuma-led ANC to curb the many freedoms that a vibrant and well-established media must enjoy. As a student, I was also highly uncomfortable with my political leader of the field of academia being a proponent of such policy.

Fast-forward to the Reuel Khoza debacle earlier this year, whereby the Nedbank chairman was critical of the ANC’s leadership and spoke about a strange breed of leadership which suffers a moral deficit. You launched into your “communist” vitriol and accused Khoza of being part of an “ideological third force” that has a fear of black rule – as if Khoza were a white man.

You further went on to whine about an “anti-majoritarian liberal offensive”, and you labelled Khoza as part of this offensive simply because he criticised government. In your eyes, government and the ANC should be beyond reproach unless the criticism comes from within. Do you remember your public spats with Thabo Mbeki when you clashed on the growth, employment and redistribution strategy?

Then government could be criticised because you were not a part of it, today it cannot because you are feasting on it? You must be smoking something and full of “Keep Walking”.

When the debacle about The Spear (a painting by Brett Murray) broke out, you were supposed to maintain neutral ground, because all forms of art (painting, music, theatre and so on) are taught in institutions of higher learning. Even protest art has its roots in the circles of academia – it is harnessed and nurtured there. You instead led a venomous offensive against Murray. You further went on to lead an onslaught on City Press for having published the painting and on the Goodman Gallery for having carried Murray’s exhibition.

I was dumbstruck. You trampled on the freedoms and foundations of dissent that are critical and of paramount need to a fully functioning field of academia. An intellectually vibrant society is not one of infinite agreement.

We know you have missed parliamentary briefings so you can attend to party work. Just like you did in March when you went to join the march against e-tolling instead of attending a portfolio committee briefing in Parliament.

In a Mail&Guardian report, portfolio chairman in Parliament, Ishmael Malale, is quoted as saying, “The minister met me in person yesterday to indicate that, by reason of his political organisation, he’d have to attend the march.”

This you only did the day before your scheduled briefing on the all-important Green Paper on Higher Education and Training.

You are unfit to hold your position. You have not put to rest ongoing annual protests at the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and the Durban University of Technology. There has been unrest in many institutions of higher learning. You are sitting on top of commission reports on the University of Zululand and WSU. I ask that you resign.

However, what is urgent to me is that you issue an unequivocal public apology on your utterances that political analysts are “a pack of dogs”. If you fail to issue this apology, I will be left with no choice but to take this issue to the SA Human Rights Commission.

Because, by virtue of writing this letter, which is an analysis of your behaviour as a politician, even I fall under the description of a dog and I join the many people you describe as a pack of dogs.

This is an insult that borders on hate speech and cannot go unchallenged, not on our watch as people who seek a vibrant society, built on challenging, critical and unwavering intellectualism.

I await to see your actions soon.

Kind Regards

Lukhona Mnguni

l Lukhona Mnguni is a UKZN student – Bachelor of Community and Development Studies