Minister Lindiwe Sisulu gave the OR Tambo lecture at the University of Johannesburg on Tuesday as part of her campaign in the race for the position of the President. The lecture was largely about what she believes she can do for South Africans particularly the students she was addressing. The Minister spoke to issue of free education, the problems facing the African National Congress and unemployment.
Minister Sisulu made the students aware of the importance of education and pointed out the responsibilities that come with it. She stated, as stipulated in the constitution, that every right has a responsibility and that the students have a right to education which should be protected by the non-burning of university property and through fruitful engagements. The Minister encouraged students to realize the potential of their contribution to society and do all they can to support it through education. She encouraged young people to realize the foundation that the likes of OR Tambo have laid, and to continue building South Africa through the principles they have always embodied. She also asked the students to assist those people who do not have the opportunity to be in university during their spare time because “It is important not to neglect social freedom as economic freedom is pursued”.
The Department of Higher Education and training acknowledges that the “level of state funding for financial aid for students who are academically eligible for admission to universities and meet the criteria of the largely state-funded National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is inadequate to support all deserving students at appropriate levels…” the Minister however believes that free education is possible. She put it to the students gathered that even though providing free education for poor students only will be cheaper for the state, her intentions are to provide free education for every student. Minister Sisulu promised free education if she becomes president. She strongly stated that free education is achievable and “this is what we guarantee we will give you”. According to the Minister, students showed their maturity when they included outsourcing in their struggle even though many saw them as confused, she applauded the students and indicated that “we have learned from you and we are following suit”.
To address the issues of unemployed graduates, the Minister suggested that she will have her administration implement apprenticeship programs so that the economy is able to absorb experienced and competent individuals. She argued that it is the responsibility of the government to take such steps in order to bring confidence and stability in the economy.
In addressing the issues faced by the ANC, Minister Sisulu argued that the Nelson Mandela administration has made a great difference in South Africa, however, today the ANC faces problems of corruption and unethical leaders. She suggested that to overcome these problems the ANC has to have a consultative conference now in order to go into the December conference with unity in the movement.
At this point the Deputy President Mr. Ramaphosa and Dr. Dlamini Zuma are the leading potential contenders for this position depending on which analytical view point you choose on the ANC politics of cause. The Minister seems to fall within the same category with these two leaders, one which has no clear progressive discourse of policy or at least a differentiated political philosophy (even within the whole political stance of the ANC). They all have so far held the same standards of the regressive discourse, and the stagnant policy ideology and execution in government. What Prof. Steven Friedman has said in the past is being proved correct by these leaders, that political leadership has become immaterial in the fortification of democracy. The Professor stated that “all democracies are started by visionaries and implemented by mediocrities”. I have previously found his entire statement to be very undesirable however it is plausible judging from the caliber of our current political leadership. Will the Minister change her presence in the political arena and if she does will it be useful?