AFRICAN National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe defended the quality of the country's education yesterday after criticism from academic Mamphela Ramphele, who said that apartheid education was better.
The public exchange between the two is related to the Limpopo textbook debacle, which Mr Mantashe said could not be compared to the education crisis under apartheid.
Mr Mantashe was also adamant that the ANC would not "release" anyone from their positions based on the "cacophony of noises" calling for heads to roll over the debacle.
The ruling party is in defence mode as it wards off criticism from various quarters and does damage control over the textbook debacle, which has been described as an "own goal" and an embarrassment.
The Presidency also released a statement yesterday to assure the public that the situation was being dealt with "at the highest level".
"The president will not rest until he gets to the bottom of the crisis and finds lasting solutions, working with his Cabinet, who feel equally strongly about the need to ensure that this does not recur," said Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj.
He said President Jacob Zuma had ordered that there be consequences for anyone found responsible for "any wrongdoing" that led to delays in textbook delivery.
Calls for the resignation of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga continued yesterday, with the ANC Youth League and the Congress of South African Students threatening mass action if she failed to quit within two weeks.
Mr Zuma was waiting for the finalisation of a report from a presidential task team headed by Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.
Mr Zuma had directed the Education Ministry to work with the Treasury and the province to make sure the debacle would not be repeated in any of the provinces next year.
Mr Mantashe criticised Dr Ramphele yesterday after she reportedly said education under apartheid had been better. "It's not the same crisis as the apartheid crisis because it's a struggle for every child to have a book while the other one was a struggle against indoctrination and actually killing the black nation intellectually," he said. Mr Mantashe spoke at a ceremony to celebrate the South African Communist Party's (SACP's) 91st anniversary.
Dr Ramphele reportedly said this week that pupils under apartheid's "gutter" education were better educated than today.
The SACP's general secretary, Blade Nzimande, said Dr Ramphele was at the World Bank when it pushed for basic education to take centre stage, instead of higher education, in Africa in the 1980 s - in order to ensure that the continent remained "perpetual slaves" to the developed world. "Today, she has the audacity to tell us apartheid education was better than what we are doing now," he said.