Student activists have every right to have their voices heard - Ramphele

2016-09-16 05:49
Dr Mamphela Ramphele

Dr Mamphela Ramphele

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Stellenbosch - Current student activists don't need to use violence to make their voices heard, activist and former politician Mamphela Ramphele said in a lecture at Stellenbosch University on Thursday.

"Self-esteem is required. You don't need violence and you don't need to threaten. Just walk in and they will take notice," she told a student at the annual e'Bosch Prestige Lecture.

"I had the benefit of being a student activist at a time when we had no models of what student activism would look like. We did bundu bashing in the dark to find our voice and redefine who we are at a time where there was no space for discussion with the people [in management].

"Today students have the good fortune of being beneficiaries of student activism not just of my generation, but also the students I knew at UCT at the dawn of democracy. I am very excited to see that students have woken up to activism."

Ramphele, who in the 1960s was part of the South African Students Association, said strategising was essential.

"The issue is how to be an activist as a citizen of a constitutional democracy. We had to scream and shout because we didn't have any standing. You have every right to have your voices heard. And if the problem is that the executives of the university are not coming down form the mountaintop to speak to you in the valley, you need to devise strategies to invite them to do that."

There is too much polarisation between students and university management, Ramphele observed.

"Part of it stems from fear as university establishments think of students as potentially violent. Now when you treat your children or your partner as a potential adversary, it is very difficult to have a conversation."

'We are in charge here'

Ramphele said political settlement could not be sustained without the necessary emotional settlement and that it would be impossible to build a new society with the existing inequalities.

"We all need to sit down and work it out…If we don't have these conversations, violence replaces conversation."

She encouraged students to "stretch their minds".

"We were called non-Europeans; we said what? We're in Africa; and to be called a non-European? You need to ask yourself… when you speak about black people being the majority in the population of SA, what you are talking about?  We are in charge here.

"Get up! This is your house. You need to be saying to whoever it is…I belong here. I am not going to scream, I am not going to shout. I am simply going to talk to you…because I belong here."

Ramphele's lecture formed part of the e'Bosch heritage project, an initiative by the Stellenbosch University and municipality launched in 2012 which aims to unite the divided communities in Stellenbosch through debate and special projects.

Read more on:    mamphela ramphele  |  cape town  |  university protests  |  education  |  university fees

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