Students protest at Wits. Picture: REUTERS

Students protest at Wits. Picture: REUTERS

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Students from Wits University turned up at the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg yesterday to hand over a memorandum calling on the mining industry to help fund tertiary education, to twist government’s arm to increase university funding, and form some sort of social compact with the universities (which are already heavily funded by mining companies but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good protest). They also demanded that South African companies stop listing abroad, which probably had more to do with the NUM delegation that accompanied the students. Nonetheless, once more, students have demonstrated their muddled thinking. Instead of getting the chamber to focus on one thing, they present a list of things, and in the end they’ll all be ignored. The students should know, anyway, that the Chamber of Mines feels the same way about government that they do. The ANC has ruined the mining industry without transforming it and it is in the process now of doing the same to our best (and even our worst) universities. Listening to the vice-chancellors of institutions like Wits and UCT warn that they may not be able to complete an academic year because of student fee protests is just terrifying.

But that’s the Zuma ANC for you. Between the fee protests last year and the fee protests this year nothing happened. Nothing happened in a whole host of other vital fields either — in water supply to the Witwatersrand, in defence, in the fight against corruption. In just about everything, Jacob Zuma’s administration of SA has just about ground to a complete halt. The students should be focusing on the problem. It’s government, not business and not university managements.

Dozens of countries around the world offer their citizens free education. And some are poor, like Uruguay and Estonia. How do they do it? Simply by deciding that education is a national priority and that, perhaps, a national airline is not. Or a presidential flight is not. Or that three capital cities are not. Whatever, they spend wisely and we, to put it mildly, do not. Let us hope the students, many thousands of whom have no money with which to pay their fees or to feed themselves, know which party name not to put a cross next to when they next have a chance to vote.

I’m a big fan of Lindiwe Mazibuko’s writing. She was smart when she was in the DA and she is twice as smart now after a few years at Harvard. In Business Day today she has a simple lesson for the student, next time around. Do your b%$&y homework. Organise. Do research. Win the argument before it spills out into the streets: How students can win the Fees Must Fall fight.

And I know Max Price gets a lot of flak from middle-class whites because they think he isn’t being tough enough at UCT. But being the vice-chancellor at UCT is an impossible job. People like Price have been hung out to dry by the state. I hope he reads Mazibuko’s piece too. Meanwhile, here he pleads with students not to sacrifice everything for an impossible goal like free tertiary education immediately: GroundUp: Max Price’s plea to students – ‘Don’t sacrifice your futures.

Here’s a story most people already know about — the creation of a BEE partner for ArcelorMittal (the former steelmaker, Iscor). What’s interesting is how Bloomberg, a US news agency, has to write the story so that Americans will understand. You can almost hear foreign readers asking themselves as they read this “Whaaat? So a group of people get a stake in a big company and the big company pays for it?” That’s capitalism SA style and part of the reason the state doesn’t have enough money to feed its bosses and lower the cost of education at the same time. Mittal diluted in South Africa as elites get steel stake.

Finally, for you enthusiasts, I came across this piece on the new Land Rover Discovery about to hit the US market. No doubt it’ll get here one day but, boy, this is a pretty car. I owned the Discovery 1 in the 1990s. Easily the best car I have ever owned: The world-conquering Land Rover Discovery is here.