Athambile Masola
Athambile Masola

Dear Mr President, I was hoping to see you at the Union Buildings

The podium was ready and your police officers were there ready to protect you. I was told you would address us at 12 noon. Some of us were naïve enough to think that you would really come. We are always full of hope. Some of us stood by the fence doing a countdown for your grand entrance. But you didn’t come.

Instead you had a meeting with a few select people because that’s what politicians do. When a decision was made you couldn’t even come address us in person. Instead you spoke in an air-conditioned room and told the media what students had the right to hear. Did the media make the demands for fees to fall or did the students?

Photo: M&G/Oupa Nkosi

Students march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria October 23, 2015. Photo: M&G/Oupa Nkosi

I’m also curious about the havoc that was caused by people wearing Sasco and ANC T-shirts. We saw them and we could see through their behaviour. Any fool can see that they were sent to disrupt the protest. And after Gwede Mantashe’s insistence that the ANC must be present at the march, one can only suspect that the ANC had everything to do with the disruption. Did you allow something like that to happen under your watch at the Union Buildings? It’s cheap politics.

Photo: M&G/Oupa Nkosi

At the Union Buildings in Pretoria October 23, 2015. Photo: M&G/Oupa Nkosi

I’m now convinced more than ever that you do not care about young people in this country. You think young people can be made fun of the way your friend Blade Nzimande did a few days ago. Did you learn nothing from 1976? Young people will not be mocked. Unlike our parents, we have nothing to lose. If anything, we have more to lose when we are silent waiting on the government to take us seriously. We watched you with the Nkandla debacle and how arrogant you have become in your second term. We are also watching your friend Cyril Ramaphosa who some argue was complicit in the murder of black people that challenged white capital and big business in Marikana.

We see you Mr President. We see you laughing away at the pain of black people’s lived experience. We see you make a mockery of the Constitution. We see you squander the resources of this country and ruin the credibility of what used to be a respected organisation. You forget that the young people you continue to treat like puppets and the young people you treat with contempt are the people who will vote next year and at the next general election. Many of them might even join the EFF and the DA. Your party will continue to lose power not because there are better options but because young voters (who will soon be the majority of voters) are fed up with the ANC and they have no loyalty to the party their parents vote for.

Photo: M&G

Pretoria October 23, 2015. Photo: M&G

There’s a new generation coming and they are angrier than before. Unlike your generation, white people haven’t made them angry. You have. The ANC has made them angry and they will chip away at the ANC until it cannot recognise itself. You have discredited everything that was possible in 1994. You are the leader and under your leadership a culture of corruption has found a place in South Africa’s government. The born-frees are tired of hearing about how great the ANC used to be. To them that’s as good as a myth. And myths mean nothing to people who are hoping for a better future. The myth is also in the textbooks for the born-frees because they were born in in 1994 and afterwards. Unlike my generation who witnessed and were blinded by the euphoria of the 1994 moment, born-frees are still waiting for their euphoric moment. And I think for them it will happen when the ANC is no longer the ruling party.

It’s really a pity you didn’t address the students on Friday. It’s really sad that you are not interested in building your crumbling credibility. The students gave you an opportunity to redeem yourself in their eyes. They gave you an opportunity to take yourself and your office seriously, but in true Zuma-style you turned down the opportunity to make the right choice. I can imagine you laughing away the opportunity with that belly laugh we’ve become accustomed to hearing. Even Mantashe made the effort on Friday and accepted the memorandum from the Wits students on Friday. He’s a problematic character but at least he had more decency than you in that moment.

Photo: M&G/Oupa Nkosi

At the Union Buildings in Pretoria, October 23, 2015. Photo: M&G/Oupa Nkosi

It’s really unfortunate that you do not take education seriously. Riding on your struggle credentials will not get you and your friends very far. You have let South Africans believe that you do not take education seriously because you are not educated. I would like to think that as someone who could not complete an education because you chose the struggle, you know better than anyone else the importance of education. Both your predecessors were educated people so people can make the connection very easily:

An uneducated president = a poor education system.

Do educated people threaten you? It would have been easier for you to challenge the idea and create an education system that you can be proud of. Instead you became a cliché and built yourself a mansion. I’m not sure about your cabinet’s credentials, but struggle credentials are no longer good enough to ward away criticism and anger.

You and the ANC are not invincible. You will not rule until Jesus comes back.

Kind regards,

“Give Mr President my honest regards for disregarding me.” — Tracy Chapman, Subcity

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