It is a shame that inequality has become sharper during our constitutional democracy than during apartheid.
Busi Seabe of the Wits #FeesMustFall movement. Picture: Leon Sadiki
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The election of Busisiwe Seabe (22) to represent students as part of a #FeesMustFall delegation sent to negotiate with the leadership of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) was an unusual way of recognising her leadership qualities.
It was unusual because the #FeesMustFall movement doesn’t usually have formally registered members or elected leaders.
The decision to elect Seabe was therefore a gesture of acknowledgment for the work she has been doing in the background of the movement since 2015.
“I think my ascension into the movement is one that is in its most organic form.
"Students on the ground put me forward and said, ‘We understand that an SRC [Students’ Representative Council] representative will be there, but we want you and we trust you.’ For me, that was a great honour,” said Seabe.
Seabe is part of a group of students from universities throughout the country who have been at the forefront of calls for free, decolonised education at institutions of higher learning, contesting the often inaccurate narrative that male students are leading the revolution.
“We did not play the role of the mothers of the revolution. We were not there to feed people and clothe them, or lick their wounds and bandage them.
“We were there to lead as we have been instructed by the masses,” she said.
The most pronounced case of female students leading the #FeesMustFall movement was at Wits.
The university has, in the past two years, set itself apart as an institution where black, female leaders can develop and strengthen their leadership qualities.
“Women have played a vital and pivotal role in the movement. We were the ones getting shot when they [male students] were in other places attending meetings. Even when we were hospitalised, we still maintained contact with [those on] the ground,” said Seabe.
As part of her activism through the #FeesMustFall protest, Seabe was arrested on five occasions last year: for running on to a soccer pitch when Bidvest Wits was playing Kaizer Chiefs, for contravening a court interdict and for protesting illegally, among other charges.
Seabe has completed a Bachelor of Arts and is about to start an honours degree in political science and African literature.
These courses were not her first choice, just as Wits was not her first choice.
She wanted to study at either the University of Cape Town or Rhodes University, but her mother wanted her to remain in Johannesburg.
“When I got to Wits, I was excited in the beginning, even though it wasn’t my first or even my second preference,” said Seabe.
“I was excited to go to university because I had been taught that – once I had a university degree – the world would be my oyster and I could become whomever I wanted to be.”
Her second lecture at Wits paved the way for her to join the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Students’ Command and the #FeesMustFall movement.
“When I started engaging with the material in my lecture and with the lecturer, I could sense the disapproval from my white counterparts,” said Seabe.
“This is when I started to understand that I may be at Wits, but I essentially didn’t belong there. That day, I started noticing the racial divide at the university.”
Her first love remains medicine – neurosurgery, to be precise. Her mission is to draw on less formal forms of knowledge to heal patients.
“My personal dream, as an individual, outside my consciousness, outside the black revolution, is to be one of the best neurosurgeons on the African continent,” said Seabe.
“I am interested in finding out how traditional forms of healing can assist and be incorporated in the health sciences faculty.”
For now, helping other students through the #FeesMustFall movement remains her main priority.
“Where there is oppression, there must be resistance.
“As the #FeesMustFall movement, our mission is to continue to agitate, to continue to [apply] pressure and to continue to fight,” said Seabe.
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