ABOVE BOARD:  Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is poised to dispose of food company McDonald’s SA so that there is no conflict of interest with his position in the government. Picture: SIYASANGA MBAMBANI
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SIYASANGA MBAMBANI

WHILE the President took a hard line on Friday against protesting students, focusing on the damage wrought on campuses, his deputy emphasised the students’ message.

With the public losing sympathy for students damaging university property during protests‚ President Jacob Zuma on Friday warned violent offenders that they would have to account for their actions in court.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, on the other hand — speaking after being conferred with an honorary doctorate in law at the University of Venda in Limpopo — said students’ insistent cries for free education continued to reverberate through the corridors of power.

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He cautioned against the "senseless destruction of property" but focused more on what the students were trying to achieve.

Zuma had said: "The destruction of property is a criminal offence and will be treated as such by the law enforcement authorities. We have directed the police to ensure that all such cases reach the courts and that those responsible answer for their actions. This infrastructure must be available for use by generations to come‚ and students should respect university property as leaders of the future."

Ramaphosa said the graduation ceremony acknowledged the present generation, which "is finding its voice and discovering its purpose".

He said it was a generation that had brought down the statues of imperialists, and whose angry and insistent cries for free education continued to reverberate through the corridors of power.

"This is the generation that is determined to change the things it can no longer accept. History has determined that this generation must lead. It is the task of this generation to fundamentally transform our society.

"It is the task of this generation to realise the vision of the Freedom Charter. This is the generation that will open the doors of learning to all‚" he said.

Ramaphosa added that this was the generation that would organise‚ agitate‚ mobilise and "relentlessly strive until free higher education for the poor has been realised".

"To do that‚ this generation must combat the complacency and lethargy that can too easily overcome our institutions. The struggles that are being waged on our campuses today should not blind us to the educational needs of those who are now barely old enough to talk," he said.

"Unless we attend to early childhood development with as much urgency and as much vigour as we pursue access to higher education‚ we will merely perpetuate the inequality and poverty of the past‚" Ramaphosa said.

However‚ the deputy president also spoke about the "senseless destruction of property" undertaken by students during the fees protests this week.

"This is a generation that builds‚ that creates‚ that innovates. It does not burn libraries. It does not destroy art. This is a generation that does not accept that the wilful and senseless destruction of property is a legitimate response to discontent and dissatisfaction‚" he said.

TMG Digital