ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe yesterday lashed out at renowned academics, among them anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele, for suggesting that children were better taught under apartheid than they are today.
Mantashe said the struggle was for a black child to have a book rather than to be indoctrinated. He also took a swipe at academic Barney Pityana for referring to the SACP as a lobby group.
"They are professors but it does not mean they understand society," Mantashe said.
"He should go read the history of the SACP ... Every time you mention a name of a leader of the party you will realise that they are great leaders of the ANC.
"The party must not be ashamed to be labelled a lobby group. The great leaders of the ANC were communists."
Reacting to Ramphele's comment, Mantashe said: "It's a crisis that is better than that of the apartheid system ... a crisis that says all learners must have a textbook. But at the time it was against indoctrination and killing the black nation."
Mantashe was speaking at the SACP's 91st anniversary in Johannesburg.
Ramphele made her comment on Monday in reaction to President Jacob Zuma's statement during an SABC radio interview that Hendrik Verwoerd was to blame for the chaos in the country's education system.
Ramphele retorted: "By jove, at least the kids could write and read. And many of them understood history and understood geography."
SACP secretary-general Blade Nzimande also poured cold water on Ramphele's comparison.
He said Mantashe should not be apologetic.
Nzimande said Ramphele had the audacity to make such a comment when she had contributed to killing the education system in the country while sitting at the World Bank.
Ramphele is among those who want Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga fired. She said she could not understand why no one had been fired over the textbook crisis.
Among those who celebrated the anniversary - which it shared with the Communist Party of China - were Congress of SA Trade Unions president Sdumo Dlamini, SACP chairman Senzeni Zokwana and the party's central committee member Ben Martins.