Student protests a watershed moment - political economist

2015-10-28 06:57
Students from DUT, FET and UKZN march to the legislature to protest against fee increments. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

Students from DUT, FET and UKZN march to the legislature to protest against fee increments. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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WATCH: Riot police use stun grenades to disperse protesting students outside National Assembly

2015-10-21 15:04

Watch as Public Order Police use stun grenades to disperse protesting students of the steps of the National Assembly.WATCH

Johannesburg - The #FeesMustFall protests that lit up university campuses across South Africa was a watershed moment for a new form of youth activism, a political economist said on Tuesday.

Senior research fellow at think-tank Trade Collective and political economist, Liepello Lebohang Pheko, told News24 while the protesting students had no memory of apartheid, they recognised its historical inequality had continued to reproduce itself.

Asked where the #FeesMustFall movement goes next after Friday's announcement by President Jacob Zuma that university fees would be frozen next year, Pheko said the students should speak for themselves.

"As a grown up, I have to says it's a really impressive moment of really amazing mobilisation across campuses, even across-party affiliations," she said.

"Young people who are marching in old PAC T-shirts, ANC T-shirts, EFF T-shirts, and I think it really represents a watershed moment for a new form of youth activism... and these are born frees."

Pheko said from an apartheid denialist's perspective, today's protesting students should not even have a "DNA recollection of apartheid" and should not be angry in theory.

Conditions ‘haven’t really changed’

"You can't forget, the past is with us. My children, they've been born free, unlike their parents who remember very clearly," Pheko said.

"These people [the protesting students] have illustrated that they might have been born into so-called freedom, but certainly economic and social conditions of African people haven't really changed."

The vast majority of people "by far" who could not afford university fees were black children, with the production of such historical inequality "very troubling and very stark", something which the protesting students had drawn attention to.

While the battle has been won this year, it was difficult to predict what would happen in 2017 regarding university fees, with the same applying in 2018 and 2019.

"What the conversation goes back to... Somebody has to step in really quickly."

This so it could be decided who had control over university governance, be it the state or the universities itself.

Read more on:    education  |  university fees  |  protests

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