Scrap nuclear and fund a long-term Marshall Plan for education, Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane on Thursday told government.
Speaking at the launch of a series of dialogues on Robben Island, the Ndungane had a message about the education crisis: “We need to act now. We cannot wait any longer. In 1956, the apartheid government closed our quality secondary schools. If we don’t act now in terms of universities, in a decade’s time, it will be said that this generation closed down our universities and added them to the ghost institutions of Africa.”
Delivering the opening address of the dialogues, the Ndungane quoted energy experts who have said there was no rational need for nuclear power in South Africa.
He also warned that a nuclear deal would increase South Africa’s debt burden from nearly R2 trillion to R3 trillion – an increase of nearly 50%.
“We simply cannot afford that. Anyone who runs a household knows that you can’t increase your household debt by half and think that you will cope. Why can’t our government understand this simple equation? If we go the nuclear route, there is no way we will solve the education crisis, either now or in the future,” he added in a statement.
The archbishop said South Africa was at a crossroads and referred to the famous “winds of change” speech made in 1960 by Harold Macmillan to the apartheid parliament: “We are today at a crossroads in our country. The winds of change are blowing again. In the more than twenty years since our democratic elections, some have become complacent, and no longer feel the wind.
“We have allowed a morally bankrupt leadership to entrench itself. We have turned a blind eye to the desperation of vulnerable, poverty-stricken people.
“Some have become stinking rich while others still grind out a daily existence in shacks without the most basic facilities. Our students have been driven to the edge of anarchy in their struggle to get affordable education. Make no mistake, that wind is blowing again,” he said.
He also called on young people to use their creativity to tackle some of South Africa’s biggest challenges.