2015 #feesmustfall had me celebrating my father's 1976 #bantueducationmustfall

2015-10-31 19:36

The 2015 nation wide #feesmusfall Students Protest got me celebrating my father's Mandisi Mti activism against the apartheid government's Bantu Education and how both these protests from different eras contribute to changing the life of a black South African with a dream to be pursued.

My father who has paved the way to my multi-racial Secondary Education up till my Tertiary Education qualifications. Started his political activism back in 1973 when he was amongst the founder members of South African Students Movement (SASM) together with Jeff Maqetuka, Mzimkulu Ntabi and many more. The first establishment of the SASM King Williams Town branch in the Eastern Cape was launched at Mt Coke Hotel. These daring efforts were a direct response to the Bantu Education oppression introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in the schools. The first strike of Themba Labantu High School in Zwelitsha a school my father went to was culminated against the system of education. Mti was one of the students expelled from school in the year 1973. Other schools thereafter joined the uprising, followed by police and special branch harassments at the leaders. He is amongst the most wanted by police during the Apartheid Regime. His name appears in the 2004 ' Most Wanted Men' list published by newspaper The Business Day. My father was then in and out of detention after the incident. However, him and his comrades were so determined that they continued with the struggle against Bantu Education.

They campaigned and opened branches from East London to Port Elizabeth. In 1974 after school expulsion, as members of SASM they worked together with other national organisations such as S.A.S.O and B.C.P which strengthened their political awareness. He feels fortunate to have worked with prominent political figures namely the late Skenjana Roji, late Tami Zani, Thenjiwe Mtintso, Mampile Ramphele and Jeff Maqetuka. They worked very hard to mobilize students to be politically active against Bantu Education that my dad's activism expanded to a point where he was even involved in the formation of the Black Allied Workers Union which led to the formation of Sawu at Zanempilo Clinic in King Williams Town. The meeting was chaired by Steve Biko and that was his first exposure to union deliberations. In 1975 he was elected chairperson of SASM in the area covering East London to Port Elizabeth. In 1975 he also led an Eastern Cape delegation in a conference held in (Transvaal) nowadays known as Gauteng. During the period of 1974 to 1975 he was detained many times, ranging from one day, one week, fourteen days, a month or more.

The mobilization of SASM branch in Healdtown High School in the Eastern Cape led to the uprising of students chanting openly freedom songs, ANC slogans held up which led to the detention of some of the students. Mti felt good about the uprising of students as this reflected his success of conscientising students. As a result, after the uprising he was detained for an unspecified period which lasted for about nine months at Fort Glamorgan Prison in East London. Mti was arrested with Stone Sizani, Ngcola Hempe, Ntlantla Mnyanda and others. After the court case he was amongst the the released, some imprisoned and others sent to Robben Island. His political activism and engagement progressed till the 1990s where in 1993 he mobilized ANC membership for the 1994 General Elections and in 1997 was the secretary of the ANC's Phakamisa Township branch, King Williams Town area my home town.

Both the #feesmustfall and the uprising student protests were both successful protests in that the firm standing and doing whatever it takes to make your voice heard to change the situation is what stood out for me. We need more individuals like Wits SRC President Shaeera Kalla, Nompendulo Mkhatshwa and not forgetting my father Mandisi Mti who share something in common which is the strong will to stand up against what you do not agree with. Lesson for every single one of us in society is that if you want to change the situation #dosomething.

I dedicate this article to my father and to all the struggle heroes who were never recognized, for their efforts have placed me at a better position today. Not forgetting Nompendulo and Shaeera for they have shaped a brighter future for a young South African who would have had their future tarnished because of lack of finances to further their education. I would also like to thank author Dr Sidima Kabanyane for mentioning my dad in his book 'Journey of a Freedom Fighter'.

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