South Africa: Student struggle – Student voices

, by Amandla!, Collective, MCOPHELA Palesa

 ’76 reloaded – Students on the march

Amandla correspondent

The students achieved in just a few weeks what COSATU has failed to achieve in almost 20 years - the insourcing of workers at several universities. Despite this, the significance of the re-emergence of a radical student movement will only be fully comprehended in years to come.

Several things make the FeesMustFall (FMF) movement unique, not least its national breadth and its capacity to unite a wide range of movements under one banner, Most importantly thousands of students have been drawn into struggle and political activity who have never been politically active before.. Suddenly, they are engaging in discussions way beyond student fees:the politics of race, capitalism, feminism, LGBTI and intersectionality are forming a new generation of activists and intellectuals.

Even the end of year examination period has not been able to extinguish student mobilisations. Struggles continued at several universities after the victory of zero fee increases. Not unexpectedly there has been a substantial demobilisation since exams started and since the ANC leaned on its youth formations to go back to class. Nevertheless, this movement is not finished by a long shot. In the coming period we can anticipate a renewal of radical student politics, which will feed the broader movement against inequality, for economic freedom and social justice.

A national movement is being born and in the new university year we can expect further mobilisations for free quality education and for insourcing of workers. The historic nature of this movement is well captured by the photo of thousands of students crossing the Nelson Mandela bridge alongside a billboard declaring MAKE HISTORY.

Political rupture

On 22nd October 2015, thousands of students marched from Braamfontein in Johannesburg to Luthuli House, headquarters of the ANC located in downtown Johannesburg. Sandwiched before and after this march were the marches on Parliament and the Union buildings. Apart from the trade union movement, with its incomparable financial and institutional resources, no movement since the achievement of democracy has had the capacity for such audacious mobilisation or had such an impact on national politics.

The target of these marches was the government, not in a general or abstract sense, but specifically the government of the ANC. This is what can be inferred from the march on Luthuli House and the humbling of the ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, who was made to accept the students’ memorandum without being allowed to speak. In this event, the students were signalling a political rupture with the ANC. As former Wits SRC President Mcebo Dlamini told the marchers: “We are shutting the Union Buildings tomorrow. The honeymoon in 1994, when we were told we are free, is over,”

This was well understood by Mantashe and his comrades in the leadership of the ANC. Realising that confrontation with the students ran the risk of permanently alienating the ANC’s youth base, the ANC initially tried to co-opt the movement. In a rapidly convened press conference after the historic march on Luthuli House, Mantashe announced: “We have called on ANC members to join the march of students to the Union Buildings… (T)his should not be seen as a march against the ANC”. But the hostility of thousands of students who marched on the government prevented President Zuma from addressing the students and winning some glory by announcing the zero fee increase.

But in many respects FMF was against the ANC and their failure to implement free education, a key demand of the Freedom Charter and one of the resolutions adopted at the ANC Polokwane Conference of 2007.

And it was not just a rupture with the ANC, it was equally a rupture with the SACP, whose general secretary is the Minister of Higher Education and against whom the march on Parliament on 21 October was primarily directed.

For Nzimande, the FMF was particularly awkward. Not only did it expose the hollowness of the SACP’s claim to be the vanguard of the working class, It exposed the bankruptcy and opportunism that lies behind the SACP’s role in the neoliberal ANC government.

At a personal level, for Nzimande, the student struggle has been humiliating. At the height of the student mobilisations for free education it was revealed that he had failed to make public a 2012 report, Free University Education for the Poor, that supported such a call. Even more embarrassing , and an indication of the bankruptcy of serving in the government, the budget for higher education has been cut during Nzimande’s term as minister, at least since 2011.

As a means of diverting attention from the responsibility of the government to fund higher education, Nzimande has been calling on the private sector to help fund higher education. Nzimande often accuses the EFF and other left forces of being populist. What is more populist than invoking the private sector as the appropriate target for students’ anger, when his government refuses to tax business and the rich so that the state has the resources to meet the needs of its citizens.

Adding insult to injury, Nzimande asked delegates at the COSATU congress "Why can’t we, as an alliance, campaign together to get the private sector to fund higher education?” Why indeed? The answer lies in the reality that Nzimande’s government has been giving large tax breaks to big business and the rich, almost from day one.
The dilemma for the ANC, and even more so for the self appointed vanguard of the working class, the SACP, is the knowledge that the campaign for free education will continue in the new year and is likely to be radicalised and more strident in its critique of government, the ANC and the SACP. Just as the EFF has pulled the rug from under the feet of the ANC Youth League, the FMF campaign has compromised the dominant role of SASCO and the other youth formations that make up the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA).

Student Power

What must not be misunderstood is that SASCO and PYA have played a significant role in the student mobilisations for free education and against outsourcing of workers. But they have been doing this in a situation where SASCO’s dominant position in many campuses has been waning.

Ironically it was Wits vice-chancellor, Adam Habib, who recognised this before the uprising started when he said that it was "simply a matter of time before students started to look for alternatives to the ruling party-aligned South African Students Congress (SASCO) associations, which have allowed intra-party battles to overshadow student interests.”

The alternative took the form of united front structures that brought all student formations together on campus under the banner of FMF, regardless of political affiliation. SASCO and the structures of the PYA have had to subordinate themselves to FMF. And when it did so, the 2015 student movement was at its most creative and most powerful. Like in the past it quickly spread nationally to most campuses around the country and was able to invoke the legacies of the 1976, 1980 and 1984 student struggles.

The national breadth and unity of the students gave it its power and ability to inspire other sectors of society. Almost every ill was coined into something that must fall. In Khayelitsha, unemployed people occupied supermarkets demanding “bread prices must fall”.

Student worker alliance

A key aspect of the significance and potential power of this movement is the forging of a student worker alliance around the demand for insourcing of university cleaners and security. The power of this alliance can be seen in just how quickly several universities had to concede the demand and enter into agreements with protesting students and workers to beging to reverse outsourcing in 2016. In fact, the insurgency of students at the University of the Western Cape forced the university management to immediately grant an additional R1,000 to all outsourced workers, pending insourcing.

Of course there is a clear link between the students’ demand for free quality education and insourcing. Outsourced workers cannot afford to send their children to university. They see in the students’ struggle the possibility that their children could escape the ghetto. Insourcing will immediately qualify workers to take advantage of free university education and rebates for their family members.

By integrating the struggle for free education and insourcing, students have constituted a power that university management have found difficult to resist. Workers’ power at the workplace is compelling. Linked to mobilised and radical students it is a major force that is able not just to decolonise their universities but to act as the inspiration to forge an even wider alliance of workers, students and communities.
This generation of students is certainly making history as did the 1976 generation. It is just possible to see its significance in cementing a generalised movement for the “uhuru” that has not yet emerged.

 The student uprising – student perspectives

Amandla! talked with a number of students about their experiences of FeesMustFall. They were:

• George Kiblor (GK) final year medical science, University of Johannesburg

• Shaeera Kalla (SK), past president of Wits SRC; honours student in political science

• Palesa Mcophela (PM), second year law student UWC

• Marx Mtoto (MM), final year BA political science and history UWC

• Msingati Kula, past President of UWC SRC

• Qhama Zondani (QZ), music and education graduate; currently second year sociology and public administration at NMMU

We are publishing an edited version of the interview with Palesa. For the others, we have taken the views we heard during the interviews and grouped them together on key topics. We start with an issue that seemed to be fundamental to FeesMustFall nationally.

Student voices: students demand to be heard and respected: this is a foundation of transformation

They have no respect for students

“The SRC is represented on the Finance Committee and Council of the University. During meetings the budget for 2016 was discussed, and a proposal was put forward for the increase in both fees and the upfront fee payment. Throughout the whole process the SRC felt that there was a lack of transparency. Finally a figure of 10.5% was imposed, with great unhappiness from the SRC.

“The SRC had throughout this process raised pertinent questions that were not satisfactorily answered and this left a lot of outrage with the SRC as there were no justifiable reasons given for why fees were increasing at such an exorbitant rate, given that fees are already too expensive. The only logical way that this outrage could be displayed was through a protest.” (SK)

“What was disturbing was that our Vice Chancellor had initially refused to meet with students on their terms. He finally gave in, but gave some rubbish responses to students. These were not taken lightly and we kindly asked him to convince his council to convene a special meeting so that we could engage them directly.” (QZ)

Disrespect leads to university and police violence

“To understand the violence you must consider both sides. Firstly students feel extremely insulted by a Wits management who refuse to listen to student demands….The university is a violent space symbolically for poor students. When protesting peacefully we had cars ram into us, we were beaten, threatened with guns and knives, tear gassed and pepper sprayed. Universities have still not acknowledged the silent violence innate in the commodification of our institutions and should be held accountable for inciting this violence." (SK)

“One knows that when police get to a gathering…they take their Public Gatherings Act first, and an interdict…. and they say ‘Look! You are not supposed to be here. Here is an interdict and this is how it reads. And here is the Public Gatherings Act, and this is how it reads. And we are giving you ten minutes to disperse.’

“In this case, there were old aunties there who were cleaners. I believe they should have been given fair enough warning. They should say: ‘All the workers, can you please vacate UWC. All students we don’t want anyone here. You must all go to your rooms in ten minutes or else we are going to arrest you.’

“That never happened. They got there and they were just shooting. They just got there literally and shot, literally speaking.

“What harm could it have done for them to just read out the Public Gatherings Act or the interdict? Many students didn’t know there might have been an interdict and we were not disturbing traffic. We were just singing on campus.

“How do you morally shoot one of your own, who are fighting for you and your children at the same time?....Ultimately, these are students you know, these are not criminals.” (MK)

They signed agreements and then broke them

“The agreement was reached on 5th November. It was a Thursday…. I was the one who personally raised the issue of the increase for the outsourced workers. I said: ‘if you can’t insource them now, then we want you guys to give them an increase and staff rebate’. They said: ‘OK fine, we will give them R500’. We said: ‘No guys, come on. On R2,700 to add R500? It is nothing for a family. Then we pushed for them to make it R1,000. Then they agreed. The Rector himself, Tyrone Pretorius, was there and agreed.

“Normally, they would send a communiqué to say what happened and what we agreed on. But on that particular point, nowhere did he want to say he agreed. We demanded this thing on paper. After a day, they said it is being typed. How do you type such a letter the whole day? Then we said to them: ‘look now, we’re giving you an hour. If you don’t bring this letter here, we will see what we do with the campus’.

“That is what actually led to the campus burning down. That copy of the letter.” (MK)

“On 16th October, Council signed an agreement with students where they committed to holding a university assembly, in which all stakeholders…would be represented. This university assembly would ratify the decisions taken by Council.

“Council not only changed the agreement that was signed, they also reneged and did not honour the agreement by not coming to the University Assembly.” (SK)

Respect for students is a central part of transformation

“We wanted to change the way the system works. For too long have lily white, untransformed councils dictated the way things work. The negotiations took place on our terms. This is a radical shift and is a step towards the democratisation of decision-making processes at our universities.” (SK)

“We took it upon ourselves to enforce changes in our institution. We have a created a new culture, where students begin to see the real power they have, and that they can use it to make sure that these institutions begin to speak to them. They too can start to effect changes in their own communities. So yes, you can call a united student body the third force.” (QZ)

The principle of respect must carry over into the state

“We wanted to again radically change the power relationships that exist between Council and students, for example, and the state and its people.” (SK)

“The voice of a mobilized, united and disciplined youth has the power to shake the core of an unjust system. The 0% fee increase must be seen as a symbolic commitment to the realisation of free and quality higher education, and not a victory on its own. There is a reason why I took a decision not to go up to the meeting with the President at the Union Buildings: these issues are non-negotiable; they are critical in taking back, in reclaiming and decolonizing our universities. Our demands were very clear. There was no reason to discuss them over tea.” (SK)

 Interview with FeesMustFall activist, Palesa Mcophela

Amandla! How did the protest start at UWC?

Palesa Mcophela The protest was inspired by the national outcry over the fee increments that were happening in all the Universities. At face value, the fees at the University of the Western Cape seem to be very low. However, for the students who attend the University they are very high and most of them cannot afford. The biggest problem that the students face is their debts. Students are drowning in debt at UWC.

A! Very often we hear that students are apathetic and apolitical. How do you see student consciousness?

PM The issue of the increment concerns everybody, even though politics have taken a downturn as more students are not politically conscious. However, since it was a national thing, our students knew about it. We struggle a lot with coloured students who are not really active. However they are starting to catch on with us and realise that they need to join us in the struggle.

A! So what were the main ways in which you organised and mobilised students?

PM We went from res to res, singing and mobilising students to come join us and fight with us. We came together from different organisations and we said that now, as FeesMustFall (FMF), we are just an organisation on our own. We are not politically aligned. If our different political organisations are against free education, it’s either you leave FMF or you join us and be loyal to us.

A! All the problems raised during this student uprising have existed for a long time. Why do you think the uprising occurred now?

PM Because financially our parents cannot cope. The situation of the students has deteriorated because management seems not to care. They turn a blind eye to the protest. Instead of addressing our problems, they criminalise them and call us hooligans.

And the students are actually coming with quite bright ideas. We are very much intellectuals and we have solutions to our problems, because we sat down and thought about it as a collective. It is not because we are bored or we have too much time on their hands.

But we want to be taken seriously, which is just something that the universities and the government are not doing: taking students seriously and actually listening to them and taking into account their solutions, which are quite creative.

A! Who have been the main forces behind FeesMustFall?

PM The main forces behind FeesMustFall are the students themselves. There is no other person other than the students. It is done by the students for the students.
They are the ones who will be financially excluded. They are the ones who are stressed by SMSs and emails from student credit management. They are the ones who see their parents struggling to actually get funds to get them to University. The students want education to be free, so that everybody can get education.

Because we know that we are the lucky ones who are in university. There are a lot of people who are in the townships and these are our cousins our brothers, our nephews and our nieces who would still need education which is so expensive and people cannot afford it.

The only other people are the donors, who we do not know. We just tweet and ask for food. We just tweet and ask for water and support. That is the only thing.

A! Who do you see as responsible for the students’ problems?

PM Our biggest problem is the government and big business for actually making education into a commodity. Everything is commercialised:

• Besides the high fees you also get textbooks, you also get accommodation.

• There is also food and leisure, because we are young people.

• We have a two tier education system and the private institutions take most of the resources from the public institutions.

So yes we need to stop commodifying education. And the government also needs to find other ways of us accessing education, and actually decolonising education.

A! What do you see as the main achievements of the student mobilisation?

PM First of all it is unity. We came from different political parties, with different ideologies. However we were able to stand committed to one thing, despite our different ideologies. It is also showing a new, let me say like, it is a new revolution where people are able to come together for an idea, where people are not waiting for political parties to actually make a difference, they actually come together and make a difference. They are not waiting for their leaders. They become leaders themselves. Yes, that is one of the biggest achievements.

It is beautiful when people come together to actually work hard for something. Because we support one another, we are there for one another and now we know about each other.

Besides students having to unite, we also united with the workers. It is the most important thing. Because the workers, we see them every day and most students did not have a relationship with the workers until now. Yes, it is the unity.

A! What demands still need to be achieved?

PM First of all outsourcing, and secondly the clearing of debt. Also, just to clarify, on all the other demands we still need a timeframe. When is it going to happen? How is it going to happen?

A! Student demands often focus exclusively on student issues. But you have put very high on your agenda support for the outsourced workers on campus. Why?

PM Because the workers are also the parents who actually do not afford our education. They are our parents. We often stress them, you know: “Oh mommy we need registration money”. And since they are not getting paid a lot of money they can’t afford it. So these struggles are very linked to one another.

The workers are the ones who also contribute to the living conditions of the students. They clean our campuses. They are always there for us when we have problems.

A! During FeesMustFall, student organisations have been very insistent on defending their autonomy and resisting intervention by political organisations. Why is that?

PM Because most political organisations, when they join our struggle, it will be for political points. Next year it is local elections. When they come they will actually even confuse problems. They will make it about themselves. But it is about the students.

And this also shows the students that they have power besides political power. They are able to fashion their own power and see how far they can go themselves. Independence is very important, because we are going to be the future leaders. So we cannot be dependant on political parties who get things mixed up. We want the struggle to be very organic and not about any political party, but about the students.
And also we want fast results. With political parties there are always processes and procedures. Within political parties there is always politics. And, you know, politics messes up everything, it really messes up everything. And especially political leaders. When you politicise something it’s not pure anymore, because there are so many other vested interests. But now, since it is the students, they only have one interest - to get free education.

Together we have power. We have power as students. Before we did not know that. Before we did not know that we had power together. Now we have seen that we have power if we unite.

A! What are the main ideological influences, if any, that have shaped the students’ struggle over the last period?

PM I would say socialism, because with capitalism it is failing, especially here in South Africa. We have two economies, which are the rich, rich, rich and the very poor. As the students, we are very aware of this. And then we see that capitalism is not working. The wealth is not trickling down very fast. It is actually taking its time. We want everything, everybody to share in the wealth. We even say we want a pure socialist education.

So yes the ideology we are moving to is socialism. The students want socialism. The students want an African education. They want to decolonise. Students want the land back. Because we see that our parents are suffering, suffering because we don’t even own our land. So yes socialism and getting our land back are at the top.

A! Lastly, Palesa, where do we go from here?

PM Where do we go from here? We are taking back South Africa. Yes, we are taking out capitalism. We want socialism. We want free education for everybody. We want to develop South Africa and Africa. We want a United States of Africa. Yes we are trying to restore the African child and African society.

 Student voices: unity of students and workers

Students are part of the working class

“Outsourcing concerned us because it is our mothers, because it is our fathers, because it is our brothers and sisters that are suffering from this, that are sitting in the location in the black ghettos and are hit by this. So we decided that this is a call that hits us as black children, as kids inside universities.…So we had to put outsourcing on top of that agenda, because it is a program that directly influences us as children of cleaners, as children of garden boys and all of those people.

“Outsourcing happens to be one of those things that keep our people in poverty. Ours is to fight oppression, ours is to get away from poverty. That is why we emphasise free education. Because we realise that education is the only way that we can be able to break away from the chains that are holding us.” (MM)

The workers stood with us

“Despite the majority of students at Wits not wanting to continue the protests, the right thing to do was to continue. I remember going to a workers solidarity meeting with workers, where I explained the nature of the WitsFeesMustFall protests. Workers agreed to mobilize and support us. And this is what they did, even at the risk of them losing their jobs.

“At the gates of our university they stood steadfastly with us, without fear. It is a shame that a majority of students refused to do the same for workers when our demand for an end to outsourcing at our universities was left unaddressed by our President.” (SK)

It is one struggle

“The struggle of outsourced workers and the struggle of students are inherently intertwined.
Turning your back on the vulnerable, oppressed and marginalized in society is a cowardly act. On our campuses, the most oppressed are the outsourced workers, who are abused racially, emotionally and psychologically and whose earnings are not sufficient to support themselves or their families.

“As a student, you will witness workers cleaning after you, knowing full well that their children will never get the chance to use the amenities they are cleaning. Students are after all just customers, poor students merely liabilities. Outsourced workers? Well, they must clean and not be seen, heard or spoken of.” (SK)

“The worker’s issues were rather a state of emergency. They really leaned on us for support, not only in the struggle, but to also educate them about what insourcing would bring to them.” (GK)

Insourcing is part of free education

“If the general workers and the non-academic staff members are insourced to the University, it is a step towards free education, because their children can study for free.…We felt you can’t speak of free education without insourcing of these general workers at the University.” (MK)

Outsourcing is immoral

“Much as the injustice that is known as outsourcing is legal, it just does not make ethical sense; we could not just sit in an intellectual environment and allow this sophisticated slavery to continue.

“We also could not sit back and watch our mothers and fathers carry the burden of subjecting another generation to the same form of slavery because they could not provide for their families and educate them. The university has to take responsibility for this. We said it would not happen in our name that the university would be a spectator as the very people who look after our facilities suffer like this.

“It is even more surprising that those who boldly claim to have fought for liberation would preside over institutions which carry out this injustice.” (QZ)

Workers are reintegrated into the university

“From this month onwards they are going to give the cleaners who earn R2,700 an extra R1,000, all of them, plus next year their children could register for free. They will get the staff rebate. So for us that was something at least that out of the whole protest we achieved.” (MK)

“What the #FeesMustFall movement and years of pressure from the Workers Solidarity Committee has managed to win is that all workers who have children,who qualify academically to be admitted into Wits, will get funding from the university to study for free. The university has also agreed to insourcing in principle and a task team has been set up to ensure that this happens within a reasonable time frame. The struggle to restore the dignity of our mothers and fathers continues.” (SK)

Student voices: challenges to unity

Strategic divisions

“The announcement of a 0% increase would have been a victory if met with a clear and timely commitment to the unfulfilled promise of free education. The fact that some saw it as a victory further highlighted the divides that exist. What good is a 0% increase when we cannot even afford higher education at the level it is currently set at? As comrade Shir’a Jeenah so aptly puts it: ‘The flames had frightened away the smoke that masked a divide – a difference.’” (SK)

Political divisions

“For as long as Wits boasts a politically active student body, there will be divisions. This isn’t always a bad thing. Political contestation and disagreement is important in building political culture. Students will always disagree on how to achieve a goal. What’s important is that the end goal is one which everyone can unite behind.
“The world is inherently patriarchal. Having led the SRC as a woman, this was not new to me. But I can point out many instances within the protests and the movement where blatant misogyny, homophobia and racism reared their ugly heads.” (SK)

“After it was announced by the president there won’t be an increment this year, they thought that there is no need to champion anything further than that....They have been systematically and perpetually writing emails to students, helped by the institution by the way, to divide the students. They’d write emails vilifying the strike and, yes, vilifying the leaders of the strike, but without any substance. One would say: ‘So you guys agree with the outsourcing of workers?’. When they say no, then we ask them: ‘why aren’t you joining the strike? Do you agree with the higher fees?’ They say no and, and then you ask them: ‘why aren’t you joining the strike?’, and then they tell you no, this process is hijacked and third force.

“Even if the issue for me was hijacked, it is not a political tactic to distance yourself from any genuine struggle of people. If you are saying we are fighting for this, you can’t say no, because of this we are not going to fight for it. Now people don’t take them seriously on the campus…

Of course, of course there was political pressure.” (MK)

 Students voices: unity, intersectionalism and democracy

One united organisation

“For once in the history of South Africa there emerged a struggle that sidelined the common divides. As much as the struggle entails addressing inequality, racism, patriarchy and many more issues, we all unitedly embraced the struggle as ours.” (GK)

“Students from different formations came together and had taken a mandate from students that indeed we needed a new way to raise issues as a united student body… one thing we appreciated was that if we are to pose serious questions to management we needed to deal with divisions, not to suspend them, so that we can have one voice.” (QZ)

“The ability to unify factions and create a diverse political yet apolitical front was a huge highlight in our movement. All factional ideologies were tossed aside (even though not entirely) and the focus was on students.” (GK)

United front and Political organisations

“The students were able to unite across political divides, to put aside all organisational barriers, all political barriers … and unite under one common goal, which is free education….There is a thing with political boundaries where political parties tend to curtail one’s involvement. Many of the students who were part of the FeesMustFall movement have been able to look beyond that. The opposing side has not been able to.

… the ANC- led alliance is sticking to the political banner, withholding themselves from partaking in the revolution….It was unable to break away from the hold that the governing party, the African National Congress, has on it. All other parties were able to get together and unite and in that sense we have gotten this far as a united front, looking at all our oppressions, gender, class, race, because we are all suffering from one thing which is the oppression of capitalism.” (MM)

“It must be clear that students in their own individual capacity have the right to belong to any political organization and also have the freedom to meet as that organisation. However what was clear from the onset was that decisions taken will be taken by the collective student body, inclusive of all political organisations and those students who do not belong to any….Student unity must transcend political organisation divides.” (SK)

“Issues of ideologies were secondary to us. But we were coming from different political organisations. We could not ignore that…. it is not our role to ideologically police people. People must be ideologically clear and aware, where they stand. So this for us has been a really, really, really unifying moment for students.” (MK)

“What I’ve learnt is that students don’t need political structures to get their voices heard….Students have more power than all these factions. It’s a pity these factions had to learn the hard way.” (GK)

Student voices: ideological perspectives

Race and class

“I don’t want to forget the race issue here. The race issue is extremely important. We have seen that black students are not treated the same. If there were white students among us, the treatment wouldn’t have been the same. Our lack of proximity to whiteness also is a disadvantage to us, because we get shot unnecessarily at times. …the police force (not the police service, the police force) is so militarised that most of these black police, when they get there, their supervisors are white and they are the ones that are forced to do the dirty work. That is the reality of the matter.” (MK)

“As soon as it started happening in white institutions, that is when the people started listening and focusing on this, because the people that were protesting now were people that they could relate to. I do think that it is some sort of new consciousness that has emerged.” (MM)

“On day one we were called hooligans. On day 10 we were hailed as heroes. This is how a certain hypocritical class of our society spoke of us. The university itself turned to praising us. This arrogant class is largely made up of individuals who believe they have a right to police the anger of the marginalised and oppressed in society. This class further tries to play this protest into their failed concept of a rainbow nation.
We must call out the hypocrisy of many in society, especially from white and middle class South Africa. The majority of white students who joined us only joined us once it was popular to do so.” (MK)


“One of our achievements as a movement was to be able to unite the students and the workers behind one goal, to note that there is one enemy and the enemy is capitalism. Capitalism is what is hitting us with education we cannot afford. Capitalism is what is hitting the workers and enclosing them with outsourcing.” (MM)

“The Chairperson of UWC Council used to be the Chairperson of the Kelly group, which is a big outsourcing company. So he would never agree on any form of insourcing. Because for him exploitation is part and parcel of what he does…. It is ideologically very much problematic to have a man like him there.” (MK)

Socialism, decolonisation, pan Africanism and black consciousness

“A socialist education would be the only way that we would have free education….. in order for us to have a quality education, we would also need to look at decolonisation. We need to look at Pan Africanism, black consciousness.” (MM)

“If you do not like black people. If you do not see the need for black people to unite as one people, with self-pride, self-awareness, then you are not welcome at FeesMustFall. And if you do not want a socialist education, where one is able to study, where education is not being commodified in a way, then you are not welcome in the organisation. So it was mainly based upon those issues, upon those ideological understandings.” (MM)

“One would say that there is a strong sense of Black Consciousness, there is a strong sense of Pan Africanism , there is also a strong sense of African Nationalism…. if you have black students firstly, more than anything else, and particularly if you have black African students, you have to be conscious of your blackness. And then secondly you have to be a Pan Africanist. Pan Africanism also encompasses black consciousness as well, even though it does not expressly say it. But if you understand the context of it, then you understand there is no fundamental problem at all. And then African nationalism, if you look at most African nationalists you will find Pan Africanism in their approach…. because they believe in African solutions first.” (MK)

Towards a new “Fallist” ideology

“Ideology tends to be dogmatic…..our lived experience has largely informed the philosophical outlook of the movement. This against the realization of the fact we are supposed to be a liberated people. So for the characterisation of the neo-colonial society, we rely on Fanon and Biko. But we should not by any means rule out the creation of new theories around “Fallism”. I imagine this would include a much labored-upon gender question and dismantling of patriarchy in contemporary struggles.” (QZ)