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ANC stance on DA school closures hypocritical

In 2007, Angie Motshekga, the then Gauteng MEC for education embarked on an unpopular operation — to close what she called “non-performing schools” in the province. The move angered learners, parents, teachers, unions and even some people in the ANC. Motshekga reasoned that the schools facing closure come January 2008, were schools that were badly managed, didn’t produce desired results and had high dropout rates – in some schools there were less than 100 learners. “They are part of what the (national ANC) education minister (Naledi Pandor) calls non-functional schools,” Motshekga’s spokesperson at the time, Panyaza Lesufi, said. “(MEC Motshekga) has reached a stage where she believes that these schools are just absorbing money and resources of the state, but the end results are absolutely nothing … if we compare the output that we receive, we believe we have no choice but to close down the schools.”

I couldn’t help feel a sense of deja vu when an almost similar situation played itself out recently. But this time in the Western Cape.

The DA is planning to close 30 schools. Provincial education MEC Donald Grant said the reason for the pending decommissioning was the dropout rate, poor attendance and poor performance (the reasons sound familiar). More than 4 000 learners will be moved in this process, along with about 150 teachers, to new schools in or close to the city. The DA claims it has, and still is engaged in public consultation with teachers, parents and learners from various districts where the 27 schools are based. And representations will be considered from there.

But the ANC doesn’t think so. The ruling party and its alliance partners were quick to launch a scathing attack against Helen Zille’s-DA led government as being racist, among other profanities. They likened the shut-down to the “gedwonge verskuiwings” made popular by the oppressive apartheid government. Only poor black and coloured communities are targeted.

“When I heard the news of the letter of the intention by Helen Zille’s government to close down the Bishop Lavis School, among others, I was taken back to a time of the harshness of the apartheid government many of us were forced to grow up under,” said ANC Western Cape leader Marius Fransman at a community meeting in Bishop Lavis.

And then came Cosatu, threatening to topple the provincial government through mass protest and court cases. “Black schools are not a priority to a government that cares mainly for the needs of the old white schools,” said Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich.

I just can’t believe the hypocrisy of the ANC officials. It was fine when they explained why they were doing it in Gauteng and the other provinces, but not in the Western Cape. And to liken this process to apartheid forced removals is just nothing but grand-standing by Fransman and others. If anything, what I see here is the opposite: kids taken out of the poor-performing township and rural schools and integrated into performing suburban schools. As has been seen in Soweto, if I remember well, the decision was made after most of these kids had already moved to other schools to get a better education. The schools were left with just a handful of learners.

Truth be told this process of shutting down schools in the townships was started by the ANC. A recent report by the education department shows that the ANC shut down more than 4 500 public schools throughout the country. They are actually still looking at closing down more in non-performing provinces such as Limpopo, the North West, Free State and Eastern Cape. In the Eastern Cape an education official was quoted as saying that in the long run, managing more than 500 sub-optimal schools would be untenable. The ANC in Gauteng then, and the DA in the Western Cape now, are allowed under the South African Schools Act to shut down or merge learning institutions if the institution fails to attract or retain educators, inaccessibility of schools or there is a low attendance. This effectively throws out Cosatu’s court threat unless there is convincing reason that the provincial education department acted outside of its mandate and the Constitution. The ANC could learn a thing or two that will help them sort out the education mess in the provinces it runs.

Instead of pointing fingers as we’ve seen with the games by Motshekga over the Limpopo books scandal, the DA owned up to the problem of poor learning conditions at the uMyezo wama Apile Combined School in Grabouw. Earlier this year pupils boycotted class and joined community members in protest for a proper school to be built in the area. Temporary classes are now standing and kids were happy on the first day to come back to new classes with each leaner having a desk and chair of their own.

I don’t really understand why we should always cry racism where there’s none? The racism card is over-used and getting boring. It’s sad when something so emotional is being politicised. We cannot afford to always see everything in black and white. Why not forget about the political parties we belong to and bring our heads together to come up with what will work for our country, for our children? Let’s give the officials in Western Cape a chance, like we gave the ANC a chance in Gauteng and other parts of the country, and see if we cannot jointly save our education system because clearly, as things are now, we need a miracle.


  • Isaac Mangena is a Chapter Nine Communicator slash activist. He has spent much of the past ten years of his life in a newsroom. He is a former TV and Newspaper journalist who focuses on African and international news. He previously worked for Media24 and Agence France-Presse. Isaac holds a BA Psychology degree from the University of the North (now Limpopo). He reads, writes and critique – a lot.


  1. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 16 July 2012

    The DA is not just closing the schools for “poor performance” but for low enrollment numbers, because people have moved to other areas, and they have already built the majority od the new schools in the areas to which the people have moved.

  2. john carter john carter 16 July 2012

    The racism card is the only card in the ANC’s deck.

  3. Bernpm Bernpm 16 July 2012

    you say: ….”I don’t really understand why we should always cry racism where there’s none?”

    Thanks, a well explained situation with a clearly explained and excecuted plan and vision.

    While the Limpopo situation becomes muddier and muddier, with fingers pointing in all directions, with ducking and diving officials in the higher and lower regions, the W Cape put up a new and seemingly functional school.

    Was there not a debate about the location of this school at one stage.

    Prime objective of the WCape ANC: make the DA’s life in the W Cape as difficult as possible. And…..even in this destructive role is the ANC (or is it just our friend Tony?) failing miserably.

  4. Charlotte Charlotte 16 July 2012

    @ Isaac Mangena
    Tomorrow is Nelson Mandela’s birthday. What a wonderful tribute your article is to him:
    You see things with independent and open eyes – and not through the skewed lenses of racism, indoctrination and pre-empted precepts (not tinted and tainted where everything is either black or white) – but with multifocal lenses so that the whole picture appears clearly, sanely and sensibly.

    Instead of a government that politicises everything for votes, power and personal gain (that schools in Limpopo still have not received correct textbooks, is contemptible!) we need to realise that we are in this together.
    By working with each other – and not against each other, South Africa can be the country that we hoped for and that Nelson Mandela visualised, strived for and endevoured to make.

    Your last paragraph is inspiring.

  5. David David 17 July 2012

    Your last paragraph – three cheers Sir. Three cheers.

  6. Shaman sans Frontieres Shaman sans Frontieres 17 July 2012

    Thank you for the common sense and the broad perspective. In addition, the W Cape Education MEC has announced that the public participation process over these proposed school closures is about to start. Fransman and co jumped the gun on purpose to score points in the media. There’ll be full public participation and decisions will only be taken after that. The ANC opposition in the Western Cape seems dedicated to exploiting racial or ethnic difference on random grounds. SA needs real focus, new vision, effective management of basic education, and Fransman’s wild reactions are hardly a firm footing – South Africa deserves a lot better.

  7. Rich Brauer Rich Brauer 17 July 2012

    In fairness, Isaac, hypocrisy is a requirement for politicians of every stripe.

    That being said, as the Limpopo catastrophe drags on, the ANC doesn’t have the right to speak on anything education-related.

    Except, perhaps, to beg forgiveness. After they actually fix the problems.

  8. ConCision ConCision 17 July 2012

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Together we must keep in sight
    That the issue is no more ‘black & white’
    We belong together like day and like night.
    This country is our country; for us, our birth-rite

    Now is the time for all to see the light
    And let our hopes and dreams take flight
    For a life that’s healthy, equitable and bright
    And to fight for a government that gets it right!

  9. franz franz 17 July 2012

    And still no troll in sight … yet: hooray for sensible discussion. Way to go guys!

  10. chalk'n cheers chalk'n cheers 17 July 2012

    Your words are worth repeating – and remembering:
    “….. why we should always cry racism where there’s none? The racism card is over-used and getting boring. It’s sad when something so emotional is being politicised. We cannot afford to always see everything in black and white. Why not forget about the political parties we belong to and bring our heads together to come up with what will work for our country, for our children?”

    A quotation also worth repeating and remembering:
    “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”

    Here’s to reason, good sense and honesty prevailing.

  11. MLH MLH 17 July 2012

    This post is a breath of fresh air; thank you, Isaac. I am absolutely certain that as more of us manage reasonable discussion, we will be able to improve things for people around us who feel they have little control and no real voice. Mazel tov!

  12. Bernpm Bernpm 17 July 2012

    @concise:……………And to fight for a government that gets it right!

    The nice bit is that we do not have to fight for it any longer, we just have to vote the right people in power.
    The struggle for democracy is over, properly selecting the right people is now of prime importance to move society forward guided by a realistic vision.

  13. Brent Brent 17 July 2012

    My whole day was spoilt, no comment from Dave Harris wonder why not??????


  14. ConCision ConCision 17 July 2012

    @ Bernpm
    .. Quite!
    You are absolutely right!

    Perhaps my ‘poetic licence’
    Leans to ‘rhyming sleight’.
    I meant ‘vote the right people’
    When I used the word ‘fight’.

    Our future is bright
    If we keep that in sight
    And use our vote’s might
    In ‘fighting for’ what’s right.

  15. Lennon Lennon 18 July 2012

    @ Brent: Give him time. He’s probably uploading his latest MS Paint creation to his blog which will be cited as proof that Isaac is wrong.

  16. Reducto Reducto 18 July 2012

    @ConCision: You should have read some of the vitriolic abuse he would direct at Verashni Pillay back in the day. If anything, he becomes his most venomous towards any African, Indian or coloured person who holds views that run contrary to his.

    I think the simple fact is that he doesn’t know where to begin replying to this brilliant blog.

  17. ConCision ConCision 18 July 2012

    … “no comment from Dave Harris wonder why not????”

    One needs to have a white skin
    To receive his racist recognition.

  18. Paleface Paleface 19 July 2012

    Quantity vs Quality. Too many borderline schools and the overall quality goes down. Limpopo should follow suit. Maybe then they will find enough books for the learners.

    Incidently……… DH has been conspicuously quiet for a few days now. Wonder if he’s all right.

  19. Charlotte Charlotte 19 July 2012

    @ Reducto ( your comment to ConCision)
    An enlightening eye-opener and explanation re Dave Harris’s ‘vitriolic abuse also being directed toward any African, Indian or Coloured person who held views contrary to his.’

    But with his stock pet phrases like ‘beneficiaries of apartheid’, his vituperation now appears to be directed primarly to whites – no matter if they were born after 1994 or fought relentlessly against apartheid.
    No one can choose the colour of ones skin, hair or eyes; yet his blanket racism is illogically applied to all whites (irrespective) – and as you said, to anyone who disagrees with him – indicating a sociopathic and narcissistic attitude.

    One can understand deep-rooted resentment towards discrimination and unfair, unscrupulous government practice:
    What he ignores, however, is that the current inept, corrupt ANC government is doing exactly that:
    In order to feather their own nests, they ride on the back of the ANC visualised and fought for by Mandela. They have hi-jacked the acronym ANC. It suits their purpose.

    That S.Africa be a non-racist, equal opportunity country is in the ANC manifesto.
    Dave Harris should remember that: His generalised, racist vilification is misdirected hurtful, hateful and can evoke nothing except a negative response.
    On the positive side, however, it affords one the chance to put forward correct facts, realities and hope for the future, by refuting his.

  20. franz franz 19 July 2012

    Humankind seems to be unable to follow one rule: do unt others … and the second rule should be: refuse to feel sorry for yousrelf. Think about it – what will peole moan about then?

  21. The Creator The Creator 20 July 2012

    Closing down schools is, generally speaking, a bad idea. It was a bad idea when Kader Asmal did it, it was a bad idea when Angie Motshekga did it, and it’s a bad idea when Helen Zille does it. Of course Marius Fransman is grandstanding, but it doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

    Invariably the schools closed down are the neglected schools in areas where the poor live. Most of the kids in those areas lose their access to education. This is not something which should be cheered just because “both sides do it”.

  22. Bernpm Bernpm 20 July 2012

    @Creator…on closing schools.

    Unless we, as commentators, know all the details for the reasoning of the closures and alternatives offered to the communities it becomes a little demagogic to reject “all” school closures in one sweeping statement.

    Should schools under trees be closed? If no facilities can be found/build for whatever reasons. When families move to the cities, must rural schools be kept open for the remaining 10 kids?? When schools are seriously under funded because of not enough children (the basis for state funding) and parents cannot fill the gap, must this school go on struggling??

    A complex matter and calling for an individual approach and judgment. Anybody who ever sat on a school board of a struggling school (or any school for that matter) would know.

  23. Boa Constrictor Boa Constrictor 21 July 2012

    @ Charlotte. Right on.

    DH is a complete fraud, a comical contradiction of racist vitriol.
    For someone who openly portrays himself as a champion of democracy (see narcissistic blog for details) he certainly shits all over the Constitution and pushes some radical race based fascist ideas.
    Dave detests white people. He passionately believes in punitive policies against BOA whatever the cost.

    1. compulsory psychological assessment and therapy to rid white people of their “superiority complexes”
    2. punitive taxation (“white tax”)
    3. expropriation of white land and other properties.

    See Koos Kombuis’s blog comments for confirmation of these awesome brain storms that will lead us into North Korean-esque prosperity.

    For someone who claims to be a democrat, he states that the South African Solution lies outside the political domain, but stops short of stipulating exactly what he has in mind (I think something along the lines of Rwanda, but he won’t be drawn on that one).

    Anyhoo, apart form the amusement factor (irrational gaffs, fantastical leaps and contortions of logic, slavish toeing of the Party line and childlike binary thinking etc.), I think he is an EXTREMELY valuable member of the blogging community…because just like Malema, he is the antithesis of fairness and an excellent recruiter for ANC opposition parties (DA or other).

  24. Otha Otha 22 July 2012

    Every school was built base in a reasonable need. Studying common reasons behind closure one always gets a common answer being “emigration”. If you dig deep, this is mainly cause by dysfunctional system of managing school performance (combination of gross infrastructure neglect + disturbing mismanagement + district offices full of headless jesters + teachers turning their school into a political ping-pong ground + a bunch of “unique teachers” who are characterised by gross under qualification). With all this fracas, one expect schools to be competitive, yet the so called social needs cluster (government departments concerned) + business sector (parasites drawing blood from the last remains of a dysfunctional system) + civil society (short-sighted and Zuma/Anti-zuma narrow orientated labour unions, grand-standing “civil rights NGOs” with no solutions except their “expose government” obsession) = all referred to as “social partners” in a “democratic” society, they are all pulling in different directions. When all cannot hold, a community of poor BLACK-FACED people opt for schools in town from schools in peri-urban suburbs and rural areas and some from one rural area to the other with a better promising school. SHOULD WE LET THIS HAPPEN AND CLOSE SCHOOLS FOR THE SAKE OF FUNCTIONALITY – when the communities of poor people have to pay for traveling cost whereas they have a school NEGLECTED by “social partners” right next door. Zille or no Zille, ANC or no ANC…

  25. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 27 July 2012

    For Heavens Sake! The DA is closing schools in areas where people have migrated AWAY FROM, and opening schools where people of migrated INTO!

    Why would they maintain the cost of a school for 500 pupils if only 50 are enrolled?

  26. jean pease jean pease 22 September 2012

    Don’t condone closure of schools irrespective of who does it! DA in W. Cape does discriminate between schools with low numbers in the leafy suburbs and those in townships. Also NOT closing schools where children have migrated away from, but where they migrate TO in some cases- indicating demand or need.. Some of these schools do not have dwindling numbers and the children are NOT being transferred to leafy suburban schools but to other not better managed schools in the same poor areas, with no better facilities and in some cases do not even provide the subjects offered. People should go to the areas where schools are being closed – the COMMUNITIES are opposing the closure (not interested in the ANC/DA spat) before passing opinions about events they know nothing about. The WCED opposes educational solutions which these schools implement and has never assisted the schools with their problems. It applies different standards for rich and poor schools. There is a real danger that the country is moving towards closing public schools and going for the model of government supported FOR-PROFIT schools (as in the USA) – exacerbating the divide even further between rich and poor. And in the USA Charter schools have not been proven to give better results.

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