Congress of South African Students (Cosas) president general Itumeleng Ntsube has played down the controversy surrounding a parallel structure by disgruntled members of the organisation that organised their own congress and elected their own leadership.
Ntsube had been the provincial chair of the radical student formation prior to ascending to the highest seat in the organisation.
Speaking in an interview with The Weekly following a media release by the group declaring itself the legitimate representatives of students in the country, Ntsube said their behaviour borders on ill-discipline as they could not claim to represent the students post the elective congress.
“We are not going to dignify what they say with a response or a comment, but for now what I can tell you is that the real national executive committee of Cosas will seek a meeting with the implicated comrades so that we see how best to move forward,” said Ntsube who became South Africa’s youngest MP at the start of the 6th administration following the May 8 general elections.
Ntsube noted the behaviour of the group is anti-Cosas after they issued a statement on behalf of the movement claiming to be the bona fide structure.
He warned several options including disciplinary processes may be instituted against anyone found to have flouted the standing rules of the student body.
Ntsube was elected together with deputy president Mandisa Dlamini, Teboho Magafane (secretary general), Xola Booi (first deputy secretary general), Sifiso Dlamini (second deputy secretary general) and Sanele Nxili as treasurer general.
The other group, which moved their congress to Moretele in the North West, elected Thabang Mokoena as president general, General Caroline Sedi (deputy president), Mzwakhe Gwegwe (secretary general), Scelo Ndlanzi (first deputy secretary general), Luxolo Gqamana (second deputy secretary general), Micheal Mayalo (treasurer general) and organisational development officer, Zithulele Ndlela.
Ntsube further denied claims that the African National Congress (ANC) is meddling in the affairs of the student formation.
He said any contentious issues would be attended to internally at a properly constituted national executive committee meeting of Cosas.
The Cosas main conference that elected Ntsube to lead the students for the next two years was held at the Living Waters Conference Centre in Tshwane and was attended by more than 700 delegates representing students from across South Africa’s nine provinces.
Ntsube admitted the congress was held amidst various challenges in the country’s schooling system, including crime and safety in schools.
“Racism in former and current model C schools, learner support, learner absorption in institutions of higher learning and the recent developments including the proposal of legislating Grade 9 as an exit point in basic education are some of the issues affecting the country,” he noted.
To tackle some of these challenges, the congress resolved that all private schools must be nationalised to achieve ‘free, dynamic and equal education for all’.
Ntsube added to deal with crime in schools the congress decided to have properly trained personnel and securities looking after the safety of students.
“The congress further expressed disappointment at the level of factionalism, patronage, and ill-discipline engulfing Cosas and the broader progressive movement,” he indicated.
The newly-elected leadership collective, he said, has to bring back stability in the organisation and would be tasked with reaching out to those who had different leadership preferences prior to the congress.
The congress that elected Ntsube was overseen by ANC national executive committee member Malusi Gigaba and former Cosas president, Wesley Kgang.
Twenty-five other additional members of Cosas were elected to the national executive committee at the same meeting.
Cosas was established in June 1979 as a national organisation to represent the interests of black school students in the wake of the Soweto uprisings.
It was preceded by the South African Students’ Movement (SASM), which was banned in 1977.