LESSONS FROM THE FIRE: LAWLESSNESS IN STUDENT PROTESTS

2016-09-16 05:25

LESSONS FROM THE FIRE: STOPPING LAWLESSNESS IN STUDENT PROTESTS

Last week a fresh wave of protests erupted in a number of varsities in the country with the most interesting recent epicentre being UKZN, where students have been protesting for more than a week. This was amid ongoing talks that the higher education commission has been conducting regarding free education model and/or its viability. Students have raised legitimate concerns ranging from fees to the poor state of varsity hostels students have to live in while paying exorbitant hostel fees which increase year on year. We also observed concerns of what certainly appear to be excessive force from law enforcement authorities in campuses. This was the case in University of Limpopo and now UKZN where students reported being shot at by the police, some being physically abused for no reason. Videos of some of these incidents made rounds on social media. This is unacceptable and has no place in our society.

Like most people, I unreservedly sympathise with our students. Having been a student, I share their sentiments on all concerns raised. However, I would like to explore an issue that appears to be left unexplored and barely stirred from these developments.

I would like to raise an issue that is starting to be a by-product of every single student protest in the country. It is an issue that if we don’t address it, has a potential of derailing genuine and legitimate concerns into unbridled acts of lawlessness. The issue of burning property in varsities. The problem of destroying lecture halls as seen with University of Johannesburg. The problem of clear lawlessness and anarchy that manifests in daylight at each and every student protest activity. The problem of imposing a view by physically attacking students with a different view on approaching protests on campuses. We have a genuine, revolutionary act that for some reason always yields a by-product of destruction. This is a grave concern and cannot go unchallenged. We are dismantling a legacy of apartheid on our varsities yet allowing this to be hijacked by anarchy and criminal elements. Students in general and student movements in particular cannot protest in an ordinary uncivilized fashion. If anything they should be exemplary to the broader society on how to channel anger, on how to approach an oppressive system and on how protests should be. We cannot be seen destroying education institutions we are fighting to be admitted to. This mentality is beyond poor and despicable. It need to come to an end.

Fair enough, like with the University of Johannesburg and Rhodes protests, some of these criminal acts are not necessarily committed by students but are acts of opportunism that criminals capitalise on. This happens under students’ watch and therefore shows how they cannot own their cause. We can learn and take a leaf out of Turkey protest on how you own your course. On how you reject foreign objects that seek to derail a genuine revolution. When opportunist and criminal tendencies attempted to hijack the Turkish revolution, citizenry isolated them, they defended their revolution by rejecting pseudo-revolutionaries in the form of military that seek to advance a coup in the name of the Turks.

Students must follow suit and never allow anarchy and barbarism to dent this revolution. Criminals must be exposed where identified. We cannot fight for education while burning down the very institutions that provide education. You cannot commit a crime to fight for justice. This is backpedalling and is not necessary. It should and must be stopped by all means possible. The millions that now need to rebuild the damage caused could have been put to better use. Students should know better. This idiocy needs to come to an end. Our revolution is sacrosanct and must be treated as such. Aluta!

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