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in manamela's words

By unknown | Mar 09, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Barney Pityana's continued stay at the helm of Unisa is like a jilted lover who forces himself on a girlfriend even after the love is gone.

Barney Pityana's continued stay at the helm of Unisa is like a jilted lover who forces himself on a girlfriend even after the love is gone.

This is Buti Manamela's analogous take on why the vice-chancellor of the distance learning university should "do the honourable thing and quit" his post.

The Young Communist League (YCL) he heads has long called for the resignation of Pityana, way before the erudite academic could align himself with the Congress of the People, says Manamela.

The university community no longer has confidence in the leadership of Pityana, whose resources they accuse him of using to do campaign work for the new political party. This is the generic gripe against Pityana, the chorus of which is amplified by Nehawu which, in the words of the university's principal, represents a negligible percentage of the campus community.

Manamela further argues that the university management is in a shambles, to which Pityana counters that "Unisa is one of the best-run universities not only in the country but in the world". Under his stewardship, the university has won awards to attest to this claim and is a model of good management to other institutions of higher learning, Pityana adds.

The Manamela-Pityana "brawl" was taken to SAfm in an interview with veteran host Tim Modise. To say the YCL leader did not come out of the interview smelling of roses would be putting it mildly.

We meet with him at midday at Sophiatown, a 1950s themed eatery in Newtown, and after the radio interview he prefers to sit, he says, anywhere as long as he can smoke.

He would dip into the Stuyvesant pack no less than three times during the course of the interview. As the younger man sits and talks, one can't help but think that Pityana is relatively lucky as the closest he's come to tasting the wrath of Manamela is virtually being accused of senility by the YCL leader.

Others, in the person of Willy Madisha and new kid on the block Anele Mda, have not been that fortunate - Manamela repeats that "they are baboons" but adds, as an after-thought, that "I will apologise to baboons for equating them to these two".

One of three children - two boys and a girl - who grew up in Modimolle knowing that every adult is a parent "and every young person a child", Manamela says he was raised to respect his elders. "But that has never meant I should be submissive," he says. "I can accord you the respect but do not make me fear you."

He takes his time, giving his interlocutor the satisfaction that whatever he says is the result of some cogitative process. "I still see myself as a child ."

But he hates ageism when "you use your age to try and impose your ideas on me", he says.

"My mother never taught me that, she taught me respect, all right. But she taught me too to pursue things, ask questions. This is how I grew up. With respect, there are people whose age has taught very little, on the one hand, while there are young people you can learn a thing or two from, on the other."

He pauses to say to the waiter, still in the same upbeat tempo: "Give me water, tap water - clean; Jo'burg water."

He'd earlier ordered pap and wors and when it came, with pumpkin and a splodge of relish, disposed of it with impressive table manners, pausing now and then to dab at the corners of his mouth with a napkin.

With Mommy dearest having taught him well or, depending on which side of the fence you're standing, badly, it's hard to imagine Manamela doing anything to the contrary: "I will always be open to reason. But I will also question things."

The story of his life is, like that of good friend Julius Malema at the ANC Youth League, one of a near child soldier. He was already political at 12, going to rallies to mouth off the praise poetry of Mzwakhe Mbuli and particularly Ingoapele Madingoane's Africa My Beginning; Africa My End.

When he moved up to Johannesburg, he found expression in open-mic sessions of downtown Jozi. "I still write a line or two," he says of his poetry.

The word, spoken or written, is such a drug to him he was on his way to a writers' festival when he was briefly detained at Heathrow Airport sometime last year.

"I read a lot," says the young man who holds Njabulo Ndebele in high esteem and cannot wait for the poetry of Don Mattera to be put on DVD.

Out comes another cigarette.

He was introduced to political literature at an early age, he says, confessing to have read sizeable portions of the Bible as he helped distribute reading material of the Jehovah's Witness in his quest to understand religion, especially Christianity.

But unlike Malema, whose words Manamela says are twisted out of context by the media, he did pass his matric. He went as far as N5 at a technical college in Mamelodi, where he proudly says he founded a Sasco branch while Malema was active in the politics of Cosas.


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