2016-02-16 09:02

Institutions of higher learning are on the spotlight again for their persistent resistance to change and suit the conditions of the democratic South Africa. They remain with the same structural nostalgia of the former colonizer, that of a curriculum that is Eurocentric, a dominant race in staff outlook in top management, lack of funding & accommodation for the black majority and a systemic exclusion of the same black majority students culturally, financially and academically.

I applaud the bold action taken by UCT students once more. However, I am uncomfortable with the arguments raised in social media by university management, white commentators and quite surprisingly even by those in the congress movement in general and the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) in particular, that is the ANCYL, SASCO, COSAS & YCL. I am very uncomfortable with how they characterize and label these student protests simply because (1) they cannot contain and control them (2) they are not leading them (3) they are organized before they could organize them themselves (4) they catching the attention of the media and authority countrywide.

The 4 dominant statements that I am uncomfortable with raised by some in social media are as follows:

#1 The #FMF movement is not led by comrades and therefore it is illegitimate

#2 Students who protest are stupid and should rather be in class learning

#3 These protests are recycling old issues

#4 The leaders leading these are attention seekers that must be insulted and isolated

I beg to differ with these 4 basic errors and let me respond to each of them quickly.

#1 -  I find it strange that in a democratic society, others should have more rights than others. According to his logic, some students no longer have a right to talk, debate, organise & protest about a problem and for a cause. Hence, the language "comrades must lead or else the movement is illegitimate".

In other words, the right to debate, organise & protest is open for comrades but closed for other students. This kind of reasoning is out of sink with democratic values and practice anywhere in the world.

Perhaps I can conclude on this first error by saying that these individuals want exclusive private democracy for comrades and if you are anybody outside the circle, you don't have the right to debate, organise & protest. So according to them, we have super democrats - and I wish to be informed as to, what qualifies one to be a Super democrat?

#2 -  These commentators make the university managerial mistake of looking at a social movement as something shallow of knowledge of its own and is busy looking at whether the protest succeeds or not - in the process, missing out on its other scholarship that a social movement is trying to give us.

A social movement, no matter how big or small it is, no matter if it is successful or not, there is a message that it is communicating which we must pay attention to. The people participating in the protest are not stupid as many Vice-Chancellors and white commentators would like us to believe.

People participating in a protest are intellectuals of note. They are a group that is coming up with theory about their condition. If you take politics, history & context into consideration, only a bafoon would miss the fact that there is a serious intellectual statement being made by building a shack at the doorstep of a campus, shutdown classes, organise a mass and demand accomodation. The cause even gains currency to go further to paint statues left on campus with paint, a symbol and a call for institutional decolonization and social justice for the black child.

Universities are spaces of debate and contestation of ideas & scholarship. They are not spaces of traditional learning and education only whereby the system of bank education is used – the downloading of my knowledge as a lecturer into your empty heads as students. Times for that have long passed in the academia. Education in universities in the modern democratic era takes place in a form of listening, doing, reading, engaging, action, organizing and protesting in the form of UCT students.

If that is not scholarship by this social movement, then nothing else ever will be

#3 -  These commentators make another bigger mistake by saying "these are people driving a recycled cause".

Again, the assumption here is that the cause to end racial oppression, class exploitation and gender discrimination are all issues that society has resolved and therefore there can never be an uprising time and time again about the same issues. In other words, if there was a protest against racism in 2002, then we cannot have another protest against racism in 2016 because one stands the risk of "recycling a cause" according to these commentators.

They forgets that the protest for free education, for an example, will continue to arise all the time for many years to come until it is finally delivered. Students will continue to "recycle" the protest for free education because it is a human right that continues NOT to be delivered. The students of UCT are no different. They are "recycling" protesting for accommodation because it is a 1994 debt that is yet to settled for the black child in particular

#4 – Comrades of the PYA, and SASCO in particular forget that its SPOT document identifies it as the "vanguard of the student movement". Its constitution begins by saying " we articulate the aspirations of the oppressed, progressive and democratic minded and historically oppressed in a united manner".

In this instance, the black students of UCT in need of accommodation & ultimately free education are the historically oppressed, progressive and democratic minded that SASCO should seek to unite. The social movement #RMF they are pushing is what SASCO should engage and seek to be a vanguard of in order to push in its revolutionary theory and political education to the cause.

The mistake that the entire PYA with SASCO in particular should avoid is when black students, children of the working class, start protesting and it ridicules them simply because they had an innovative way of organizing that they didn't have and their way of organizing is peaceful yet very effective & is catching the attention of authority in the entire country whereas theirs didn't. These are strategies & tactics that SASCO should be drawing closer to its ranks instead of insulting and isolating them.




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