Editorials 21.9.2016 05:00 am

You can blame Nkandla for the angry students too

Wits University Great Hall doors vandalised.

Wits University Great Hall doors vandalised.

When society constantly hears about corruption and abuse of public money, who could blame them for demanding prioritising their needs.

There’s obviously no justification for the wanton destruction of property by protesting students at universities nationwide.

The burning of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s law library by students a few days ago was a shameful crime that deserves the harshest punishment.

So was the violence and vandalism that was captured live on television at Wits University where protesting students clashed with police and security.

Sadly, this destructive behaviour is not new. Last year, the nation witnessed with horror ugly scenes at universities countrywide where property to the tune of nearly R1 billion was burnt and destroyed by anarchists.

Yesterday, a number of universities throughout the country had been disrupted by protesting students‚ with some closing shop. Students are up in arms over Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement that universities should determine the level of fee adjustments for 2017 themselves‚ as long as it is not above 8%.

Many citizens have correctly lamented the total lack of leadership in government. Many are asking when are the country’s leaders going to stand up and decisively confront the real issues behind student unrests and the scandalous destruction of property?

In the light of widespread corruption and wholesale looting of public resources, our leaders have no moral leg to stand on to convince the students that free tertiary education is unaffordable. In his budget speech earlier this year, Nzimande claimed South Africa could not afford free tertiary education for all.

“It’s a cheap populist call by people who have no responsibility to run the country,” he said.

But Nzimande will find it hard to convince South Africans, given the reality that he is part of a corrupt administration renowned for showing scant regard for the public purse.

Year in and year out the auditor-general paints a scary picture of how billions are wasted and stolen by greedy politicians and public servants whose sole aim is to enrich themselves. This, and the fact that government could afford to splurge a quarter of a billion on upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s private home, is largely what is fuelling the #FeesMustFall protests.

The students are convinced billions lost annually to corruption could be more than enough to afford free education. While there’s merit to this argument, the thuggery that has seen university property to the tune of millions go up in smoke delegitimises the courageous struggle for a noble cause.

 

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