'76 hero says: 'We sold out'
A leader of the June 16 student uprising has said that 40 years later he feels that the class of 1976 has let down the youth of today and "sold out" the struggle.
And in Gauteng President Jacob Zuma implied to hundreds at Orlando Stadium that today's young people were not as serious about education as the government.
Seth Mazibuko, robbed of his childhood after being arrested at the age of 16 and being placed in solitary confinement for long periods,told Rhodes University students that the struggle for freedom was still going on. He said the questions being asked by students today were almost the same as those being asked in 1976 - except there was "a different jockey riding the horse".
"When I get angry, when I get bitter, give me water. The days of my youth were abused and taken by apartheid. My bitterness, my anger is because not much has changed in education."
Mazibuko said yesterday that he was not in Grahamstown to give a "comfortable speech" or "tjommie jive" about the political gains made since 1976.
He said if there was talk of a "second revolution" in South Africa, education was a key area that needed attention.
"Let me make a confession, fellow South Africans, particularly young people: Forgive us - we sold out."
Although people were united in their fight against apartheid, Mazibuko said there had been a "lull in leadership" since 1994.
"It was not caused by the system; it was caused by the greed of the politicians."
He said politicians were lining their pockets and that people were protesting now because there were no ethical leaders - even in youth circles.
"We need a new generation of ethics- and values-based leaders."
He said that, instead of leading, politicians were wasting time in parliament, throwing tantrums while people were dying in the townships.
Zuma said yesterday that the young were flippant about education even though the government spent billions of rands a year on it.
Even more worrying, Zuma said, was the impression, created by the burning of schools and other infrastructure, that South Africa was "losing the plot".
"Given the usage of education as an instrument of subjugation by the apartheid regime, the democratic government decided to make education an instrument of liberation. Education is an apex priority and receives the biggest chunk of the national budget," he said.
"Each year we build new schools and refurbish others to improve the learning environment. The government has built 795 schools since 2009 at a cost of R23-billion. We have built 78 new libraries in addition to 304 that have been upgraded.
"To improve access to education, at least 80% of our public schools are now no-fee schools and 9million children are exempted from paying school fees. In this way, the country is making progress with regards to free basic education for the poor and the working class.
"In paying tribute to the class of 1976, we urge our youth to make education their apex priority, too. Nothing must distract you from obtaining education.
"The nation recently faced the horror of the burning of more than 20 schools in Vuwani, Limpopo, by people who are unhappy about being made part of another municipality.
"Such actions give an impression that we are going astray as a nation. There can be no justification for such violence in a country where, unlike in June 1976, we have access to government at three spheres to communicate our grievances peacefully. We need to undertake some serious introspection and to come up with solutions as a nation."
Mazibuko said the recent #FeesMustFall protests had "messed up" when the "yellow, red and blue T-shirts" of political parties got involved.
"In 1976 we did not have T-shirts; it was black-and-white school uniforms."
Mazibuko urged students not to betray their struggle to politicians, warning that if they did, history would repeat itself and young leaders would be co-opted and promised well-paid positions instead.
"The doors of learning must be open to all, even those who don't have money."