If ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe was higher education minister, he would close universities for a prolonged period to teach protesting students a lesson.
“They are not doing anybody a favour,” said Mantashe in response to a question on the fees protests, on the sidelines of the SA Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (Sactwu) congress in Cape Town on Wednesday.
He prefaced his statement with the disclaimer that he was not minister of education, but that if he was, that is what he would do.
“…That will be my starting point, but unfortunately, I am not a minister of higher education.”
He said this had been done before in a country he would not name.
“And after a year, everybody began to appreciate that ‘where I go to university, I am not doing any government any favour. It is my future. And that future is in my hands’.”
He said the ANC’s founding document, the Freedom Charter, states that scholarships for higher education and technical education will be granted on the basis of merit.
“And we are not doing that. We have elevated [it] almost to a right. But any right goes with a responsibility.
“If you don’t have a responsibility that goes with a right, you must actually take away the right.”
Mantashe said he paid for three of his four children’s university education because he could afford it. But if he was short of money, he sold cattle to cover the costs.
“I pay. If I don’t have money, I sell cattle and pay,” he said, urging students who could afford to pay, to do so.
“If we destroy universities, we are not going to have them tomorrow and the dream of free education for the poor will fly through the window,” he concluded.