ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday delivered a lukewarm keynote address at a virtual anniversary celebration of the SA Student Congress (Sasco).
Not only that, but Ramaphosa could not be drawn into entertaining any of the Sasco demands made by its president, Bamanye Matiwane, who spoke before the head of state.
And this could be noticed by Sasco secretary-general Buthanani Ngwane, who reminded Ramaphosa after his address of their demands.
“Thank you Mr President and we wish our demands and message to you and the ANC as our Sasco president has said them will be implemented with speed,” said Ngwane.
Sasco made several demands including the formation of a “student bank” and an end to corruption in the ANC government.
Given the political climate in the country and internal wrangling and battle for control within the ANC, many would have expected Ramaphosa to go for the kill. This especially after the ANC’s most recent national executive committee meeting where he emerged unscathed despite attempts to corner him.
But Ramaphosa was not interested on Sunday as he instead gave a speech that was more of a history lesson of Sasco.
He wished Sasco well saying it was an important organisation in the pursuit of the so-called national democratic revolution (NDR).
“We need a strong Sasco that will ensure that conditions at institutions of higher learning are improved and are conducive for academic excellence and success,” said Ramaphosa.
“In this regard, Sasco’s success is inexplicably linked to ANC success in building an educated society based on the vision of the Freedom Charter which was drafted by our forebears.
“Sasco is too important an organisation not to succeed. Your future as an organisation is that you should succeed in executing the objectives of our revolution,” he went on.
Speaking at the same rally, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande also praised Sasco for its understanding of the NDR.
But Nzimande, unlike Ramaphosa, also touched on current burning issues such as corruption, which he described as the biggest threat to the progress of the ANC and SA society at large.
“This thing of corruption is actually threatening to derail our revolution and defeat your very future as young people who are actually the future of our country,” said Nzimande.
“It is therefore very important that Sasco must be in the forefront to actually defeat the scourge of corruption.”
Nzimande also called on Sasco to lead the fight against other “organisation regressive tendencies” such as factionalism which threatened the very existence of the ANC-led alliance, which includes SACP and Cosatu.
Nzimande took a swipe at the ANC “which at the moment is faced with very serious factionalist behaviour”.
According to Nzimande, it was Sasco that had the potential to stop factionalism and corruption within the ANC ranks.
As students take matters into their own hands, said Nzimande, they must guard against populism.
“Some of our leaders find it easy to promise our people things that they know are not going to be achieved overnight,” said Nzimande.
“But because there is this bad tendency of wanting to tell people what they want to hear, we end up being populists.”