Address by Hon. Leonard Ramatlakane, on the plight of imprisoned Fees Must Fall Activist

Speech by ANC MP, Leonard Ramatlakane, on the plight of imprisoned Fees Must Fall Activist, National Parliament SA, 11 September 2018

The African National Congress want to pledge our support to the legitimate call for free education by the #FeesMustFall Movement for free education. However we do not agree on the method of violence and damaging properties to the value of about 800 millions.

It is a call which must receive our support as our Freedom Charter already in 1955 stated that that:
"The Doors of learning and Culture shall be opened":
"Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit."

We are a Constitutional democracy, with a Constitution that is supreme law.

Any conduct which is inconsistent with the constitution is invalid and the state has an obligation to protect its citizens against such violation within democratic institution operating within the parameters of the constitution and the rule of law.

Section 29(1) of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution (which is the basis for all our law), also clearly spells out the role of government in education:
(1) Everyone has the right -
(a) to a basic education, including adult basic education; and
(b) to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.
So the principle of Free Education is well established and we do not for one want to question the legitimacy of call articulated by campaigns such as the #FeesMustFall movement.
However, having said this, we are also aware of the number of Fees Must Fall activists who have not respected the conventions of protest in South Africa. Our Constitution also provides that:

Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions.

The #FeesMustFall movement protested and their protests were heard by the majority of South Africans and the Government.
One of the pillars of the National Development Plan (NDP) "people living in South Africa feel safe at home, at school and work, and they enjoy a community life without of fear and violent crime"
Honourable Speaker, the government of the ANC heard their call and in 2017, the former President of the Republic announced Free Education for all students whose household income was below the R350 000 threshold.

Honourable Speaker and Honourable Members, we should not fool ourselves about what the Constitution states. It states that all shall be equal before the law.
Our Constitution does not call for that those who commit violence during protests shall be given a free get out of jail card.
The call by the EFF if it was serious should be considered a request for the justice system to be subverted to make special deals for the jailed students.
Our law does not allow for special deals for special groups. If this were the case, then we should have special deals for the EFF's beloved GUPTAs, special deals for the State Capture accused and indeed the hundreds of criminals who systematically engages in destruction of state and private property.

Speaker, the laws of this Republic must apply equally to all people. When we start to tinker with pardons and exemptions for this group and that group then we start the slippery slope in our democracy.

I want to say to the students. We have heard you and we respect your stance on #FeesMustFall. The majority of thousands of protesters were peaceful.

We cannot allow violence to be the clarion call of the few.

The state will react to violence and tyranny of the reactionary few.

Do not underestimate the resolve of the state to govern in its own name. If you want to break the law, be prepared to do the time. And this goes for all sectors of our society.

Violence does not get you what you want. Instead, better negotiation skills help you win demands unattainable through violence.

In Conclusion

Let me state clearly: The African National Congress will listen and implement. We will engage and our government will support our students and other sections of our society with their legitimate demands.

We can never make and agree to private deals for those whose purpose is to subvert the hard won democracy and neither will we undo it to appease a party like the EFF.

Speaker, Freedom has cost us and our people dearly. We shall unconditionally defend our Freedom. We shall not be moved!

The ANC government urges all people to protest peacefully and with dignity, that includes respect for the rule of law and respect for people's lives and property, and not to take the law into their own hands.

The destruction of public property and the disastrous impact it has on the economy, on business and investor confidence serves to derail our progress as a nation.

We need to understand that public property belong to the people and that the state only manages it on our behalf.

There's a need for us to use alternative dispute resolution facilities which are available and employing them as opposed to destroying property which belongs to the people.

I Thank You