Searching for justice in the fire
When Monde Nonape registered for a Bachelor of Arts in psychology at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the plan was to focus on the mental health and the psyche of black people in the townships.
“Growing up, I knew that the greatest weapon in a human being was the mind,” said Nonape. “I wanted to create a space for black people to discuss their problems without being judged.
“Growing up in the township, I was of the view that UWC, in particular, was meant to serve the purpose of blackness. It is one of the universities that built up an intellectual to respond to the national question of blackness.”
Born and raised in Nyanga township in Cape Town, Nonape is no stranger to the struggles of his community.
“Townships are hell in South Africa – we know that they were not created for human beings, but they were created for subhuman beings; created out of whiteness. For one to survive in the township is a miracle,” he said.
“I grew up with strong Christian values,” said Nonape. “I have served in many youth ministries. I am still a preacher, but I now preach using black consciousness and black revolutionary theology.”
For Nonape, Christianity and justice cannot be separated. He sees Christianity’s purpose as that of creating a just society.
When the #FeesMustFall movement started in 2015, Nonape became one of its chief campaigners at UWC. He was attracted to the movement because of its ability to unite students and workers.
“#FeesMustFall elevated the level of our thinking as students and showed us that the struggle of the students is the same as the struggle of the workers,” said Nonape.
He said the #FeesMustFall movement had been a long time coming and that it was not a wave instigated by students.
“It was a wave that came as a gift to us from the black stallion of revolution for us to carry the baton and fulfil the mission,” he said.
Nonape’s troubles started when he was completing a Bachelor of Arts (honours) in education last year. It all started with a Facebook update at the height of the #FeesMustFall protest in October. The post, explained Nonape, was a paraphrase of Frantz Fanon’s writing that appeared in Quilombo newspaper as a metaphor for the voices of the oppressed.
“My argument was this: The fire that has been occurring at universities has not been given a voice. There is a voice within the fire. The fire cannot only be associated with hooliganism; it must be seen as a voice that has been suppressed in South Africa in the postdemocratic era. That kind of voice is emerging through the fire.”
Nonape later learnt that Babulele Bingwa, the secretary to parliamentary liaison officer at the department of higher education and training, had opened a case of inciting violence against him, and that UWC was using the Facebook post to seek an interdict against the protests. He lost the case in court and was expelled from UWC. Nonape will appear before the UWC student disciplinary committee next week and hopes to be allowed back into the university to start a master’s degree.