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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

Author

45 Comments

  1. Martin Young Martin Young 26 October 2015

    Very powerful.

  2. Chris Andrade Chris Andrade 26 October 2015

    “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.”

    *Applause*

  3. Des Des 26 October 2015

    Brilliantly written to sum up the repercussions of the responses of our president and some ministers. There seems to be a constant underestimation of the severity of this movement. I do not support the violence and aggression displayed to those opting not to protest but the lack of respect shown to the movement that has escalated since its beginning will be the downfall of an arrogant government. Humility and mutual respect is not negotiable not for students nor for decision makers.

  4. susanbande susanbande 26 October 2015

    Full points for this!

  5. Cliff Smith Cliff Smith 26 October 2015

    Thank you very, very much for this Athambile Masola. It is people like you who give me continued hope that South Africa can truly become a great economic success with true and complete equal opportunity for all who live in our beloved land. As an older pale male I have been very worried that we are headed in the direction of becoming a failed state like our neighbour to the immediate north of us. It is my sincere hope that we rather follow the trajectory of another African country that has defied all odds and grown successfully to become a country where every child has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential. Mauritius – bereft of the mineral and natural wealth of SA has achieved this success by careful, frugal and scientific policies that have exploited their scarce resources to the broad benefit of the wider society. If enough young South Africans currently in high school and university feel as you do then we have an excellent chance of emulating that mini-powerhouse.

  6. Suntosh Pillay Suntosh Pillay 26 October 2015

    IF we could recall Mbeki, we can recall Zuma.
    It will be tragic if he is allowed to see his two full terms.
    #RecallZuma

  7. Capetocuba Capetocuba 26 October 2015

    Wow, hat’s off to the author & couldn’t agree more!

  8. Carina Renard Roux Carina Renard Roux 26 October 2015

    Standing ovation from me Ms Masola. Gives me hope for the future of this beautiful country we all call home.

  9. #ANCmust fall #ANCmust fall 26 October 2015

    Good article. There’s hope here that the ANC will be voted out….at last

  10. Eileen Shepherd Eileen Shepherd 26 October 2015

    Well said, Ms Masola. Congratulations on expressing extremely well what so many people think.

  11. Richard Young Richard Young 26 October 2015

    Brilliant. Please share widely.

  12. Nick49 Nick49 26 October 2015

    Seems like trouble brewing in the distance?

  13. mojito mojito 26 October 2015

    Well said! Very powerful words spoken.

  14. neeraj neeraj 26 October 2015

    i saw the broadcast of the protest on youtube. i saw people of all religions and race come together to achieve a common goal. i saw a united south africa. never been more proud to be an african. it seems politics and politicians is what divides our beautiful country. i want to thank our students for showing us that unity is strength and that there is hope for our country.

  15. LuSypher LuSypher 26 October 2015

    Amazingly eloquent and to the point. Makes me realise just how serious and committed these students are. More strength to them.

  16. Elizabeth Nel Elizabeth Nel 26 October 2015

    Very well said. Not that zuma will take any notice. The anc of today could not care less about the youth, the aged, the disabled, the economy, the environment, our wildlife, our sportsmen and women …. the anc of today is in it for the money. They thumb their noses as the law, at our precious Constitution, at our daily struggles. Voting for the anc of today is voting for failure, lawlessness, poverty. The anc must go.

  17. TheNewFreedomFighter TheNewFreedomFighter 26 October 2015

    Good article! Only, I fear that the struggle mind set is so entrenched in the people that any “new revolution” that will be born from this will be fundamentally the same as the one BooZuma and his ANC have been fighting. To succeed SA needs to throw out the revolutionary mind set and adopt one that builds a nation where the strengths of all are used to build social cohesion, pride and wealth. We need a leader.
    Zuma showed either extreme cowardice or extreme arrogance (or both) when he decided not to address the demonstrators. Either way he showed how estranged from the people he is. I could just imagine him thinking, “I have my Nkandla, to hell with you!”

  18. Madbob Madbob 26 October 2015

    If this was a thesis I would give it an A+…. but sadly it is not. Extremely well put Ms Masola….very well done and said, I would rather have you as a president any day !

  19. Paul Young Paul Young 26 October 2015

    Wonderful article…..probably one of the better ones of late…really resonate…..I despair over this country for more or less the same reasons you mention……..your parting comment about Jesus is thought provoking too…………students must keep on but fight for the premise that education is the essential empower-er……as you say an uneducated president can either not care about education or realise problems little education can (not always but mostly) cause and rectify with the utmost urgency and vigour

  20. Anton du Plessis Anton du Plessis 26 October 2015

    …100% correct…politics and politicians are the main dividers…of…the citizens…not the citizens…

  21. Brian Nobin Brian Nobin 26 October 2015

    Two decades of nostalgia, reminiscences, sentiment, and worship of historical icons are more than enough. It’s time to get down to the core business of moving a country and all its citizens in the direction of a sound and progressive future. The coterie of comrades who are obsessed by personal aggrandisement and the accumulation of personal wealth must make way for young, rational, patriotic and talented South Africans to manage, lead and administer the resources of the land we love.

  22. Spike screams Spike screams 26 October 2015

    Bloody well spoken.

  23. Donald Knight Donald Knight 26 October 2015

    Yes, a beautiful country spoilt by the avaricious politicians.

  24. Citizen_Wh Citizen_Wh 26 October 2015

    Athambile missed the irony in her second paragraph – the students preferred to express their demands through the media and the Prez, appropriately, used the same media to respond to their demands. Nothing wrong with that I think? PS We’re not discussing the merit/demerit of the prez here, but his choice of medium to respond

  25. ag001 ag001 26 October 2015

    These “protests” (claiming what has in fact been promised) could turn out to be a watershed moment – the moment when a “new” South Africa is born.
    The issues appeal to a national need, not a race / gender / religious need, but a national need – relevant, quality education.
    As an old “whitey” – I fully support our students! It’s time for change and this could be the start of a real “one-nation” as envisaged by Madiba.
    Let’s stand together as a nation – facing a common foe. And yes – politicians are the problem – throughout history, they have always been the ones to create more problems than exist. Let the people govern. Let quality education be available to all South Africans – it’s about our survival as a nation.

  26. Hopeful Hopeful 26 October 2015

    That was a united protest. Black, white students, and the long suffering tax payers quietly cheering them on in full support in the background. Proud of you, Students. ANC, buck up or your time is done.

  27. Hopeful Hopeful 26 October 2015

    Education is the ONLY transformation that works.

  28. Hopeful Hopeful 26 October 2015

    Bring President Mbeki back!

  29. Russell Robinson Russell Robinson 26 October 2015

    Well said. You nailed it perfectly. I would rather have you as the president

  30. Isaac Newton Isaac Newton 26 October 2015

    Do not make the mistake of thinking that Zuma is the problem. The problem is the NEC that decided to put him there as President. The entire ANC leadership is to blame, and the entire ANC leadership must fall. That means, the ANC must fall.

  31. Gemma Tell Gemma Tell 26 October 2015

    Er, no! C’mon SA, show us your true sons!

  32. Gemma Tell Gemma Tell 26 October 2015

    1000dB applause!

  33. Molebatsi Masedi Molebatsi Masedi 26 October 2015

    Yours is a piece of opportunism that needs to be dismissed with contempt.

  34. Gemma Tell Gemma Tell 26 October 2015

    Well spotted, sometimes its so lonely on this perch.

  35. Gemma Tell Gemma Tell 26 October 2015

    And criminals. Imagine how the victim of the Rhodes Park horror attack can ever enjoy herself again the the beautiful nature of SA? Imagine when the one who was lucky enough to escape, has to tell her child how his/her father was murdered?

  36. HughRobinson HughRobinson 27 October 2015

    I think people like zuma and blade live in fear of their own. That said this was not a victory but a day of great sadness, where yet again violence got results.
    This country will never move forward as long as the mind set of violence and intimidation [ largely unreported or played down ] remains. Sadly education taking a back seat again. An act the ANC taught and used has come home to roost which has become the norm, seems to apply at all levels of society.

  37. aclimbmax aclimbmax 27 October 2015

    This is very well written, heart felt, truthful article, an honest message.

    I must applaud the author, you have a natural talent for writing. I am envious of you.
    Like all talented writers your words have made me think. Yes, its sad to think about the dream of South Africa v. the reality.
    I think the ANC got too comfortable and too fat sitting on top of us, they are simply tax collectors and not caring about the modern struggle we all live in.

    For me this is not the land we hoped dreamed and prayed for, and finally your generation the “born free’s”. Have realised its a fake dream. Everyone said it would happen in the last election, well the newspapers did. Its happening now.
    As a white male, born in the 70’s I anted Apartheid to end, I wanted a better country for all.

    My generation who voted in 1994 referendum wanted to share the wealth and are saddened. We wanted a better country for all to live in, this has not come to pass, there is now more suffering than ever. The new struggle has begun, one to remove corruption and rebuild South Africa, into a country that will be a power house, where all her people have jobs and dignity.

    You are not in government to become rich, you are there to serve the people and make the country better.. If you are fat and greedy then stay away.
    If your heart and your mind is true, please stand up now and lead this country forward, before it is too late.

    Mandela never wanted this, that is for sure. He had a dream he was prepared to die for, and it was not Zuma’s dream of a big house and a German car.

    God bless you ATHAMBILE MASOLA.

  38. Voldemort Rupert Voldemort Rupert 27 October 2015

    If they would just count all of us who abstain from voting we would have out-voted the govt long ago. #govtmustfall

  39. qumbu qumbu 27 October 2015

    for them going to parliament, they were there to meet president if they were looking for d media I think they know sabc offices or any media offices where

  40. Francis Kintu Francis Kintu 27 October 2015

    Its clear the ANC doesn’t have any more ideas that can take the country forward. Gwede Mantashe and his ilk of useless fuddy – duddies must make way for young generation of leaders in the ANC like Mashatile and others who are dynamic and progressive. Zuma is obviously a disaster. He isn’t a visionary leader by any stretch of the imagination.

  41. Thami Nyandeni Thami Nyandeni 28 October 2015

    Great piece, it’s time we really listen to each other…

  42. Robert Ahlschlager Robert Ahlschlager 29 October 2015

    Well done, true and to the point. Politicians divide to maintain power. We need to honour the past and those who gave everything for the future, not use the past to maintain power and terrify people. United as a nation not as a race or political party.

    I often wonder why the government is scared to educate the population properly.

    Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, feed him for a lifetime.

  43. Rod MacKenzie Rod MacKenzie 30 October 2015

    I would rather go with #SackZuma. More to the point.

  44. RSA.MommaCyndi RSA.MommaCyndi 31 October 2015

    I too was desperately proud of them all. I saw the photos of the young folk providing a safe place for the Muslim students to pray and I saw the photos of the students cleaning up the grounds afterwards. From start to finish, they restored my faith in humanity and gave me great hope for our future.

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