On 4th May 2016, the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (CPLO), in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) hosted a lunch meeting with a representative of South Africa’s third biggest political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Mr Moses Mbatha. Mr Mbatha is a member of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training.
Mr Mbatha spoke mostly about pertinent issues regarding tertiary education. He recalled the challenges he faced as a black youth from an underprivileged family in need of university education; and expounded on phenomenon known as ‘black tax’ – a system in which black graduates are expected to contribute financially towards the upkeep of their immediate, and sometimes extended, families. Mr Mbatha emphasised that such a system, of which he had experience, was unfair towards South Africa’s black youth insofar as it inhibited them from entering the middle class, or significantly raising their standard of living. The EFF believed in the ideal of free tertiary education for all, and he was pushing this in his Parliamentary portfolio committee and on the ground when engaging with activists, students and universities. Many of the questions that followed had to do with the affordability of such an ideal, to which Mr Mbatha responded by suggesting a re-direction of funds from other departments to that of higher education and training.
Towards the end of the meeting the discussion turned to the upcoming local government elections. Mr Mbatha was confident that the EFF would do extremely well. He predicted that it would win in a number of councils, including the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, and that the party was aiming for 51% of the overall vote.
In all, the discussion was insightful and gave those who attended clearer understanding of EFF’s stance on contemporary issues, particularly the ideal of free education. The event was well attended by representatives of the diplomatic corps, the religious sector, and civil society.
L-R: Mr Shuaib Appleby (Muslim Judicial Council), Fr Peter-John Pearson (Director, CPLO) & Mr Moses Mbatha.