Durban – While student protests sweep across tertiary institutions in the country President Jacob Zuma stayed tight-lipped on the matter when addressing the World Trade Union Congress in Durban on Wednesday.
Instead, Zuma’s only mention of education was when he briefly touched on a joint African Union and United Nations panel which estimated that “illicit flows” out of Africa could amount to $50bn.
“Illicit financial flows deprive developing countries of much needed economic resources to uplift their economies and people. We also lose money that we could be using to develop infrastructure and provide basic services like education and healthcare,” Zuma said to more than 1 200 delegates.
Zuma’s main focus was the difficulties that workers face with a struggling “global response to capitalism”. He was critical of the United States.
“Today we all complain about sluggish economy or the economic meltdown. It is the banking system of the US that created it [capitalism] and engulfed the whole world.”
Zuma said times were difficult and went on to criticise the United Kingdom and Brexit.
‘New path for growth’
“In wealthier countries the migration crisis has led to increased xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments. The Brexit vote in the UK, the political climate in many European countries and rhetoric of building walls in the US are all examples of this.”
Zuma was however encouraging on China. He said that during the recent G20 summit in China the hosts proposed a “new path for growth in the global economy” with South Africa’s support.
“This includes micro-economic policies that create jobs, address unemployment, improve people’s employability and promote decent work. These are policies that will reduce inequality which poses a serious economic challenge to all countries.”
On Monday in Johannesburg student leaders at a higher education summit disrupted proceedings and called for Zuma to listen to their concerns.
Student representative council leaders from various universities stood up and raised their hands asking to be acknowledged as the business leaders began addressing the summit.
They wanted Zuma to come back to the summit following his opening address earlier. They said they were not interested in engaging with stakeholders who did not have any decision-making powers.