The civil war is ‘in­evitable’

CityPress - - Voices - CHUMANI MAXWELE voices@city­press.co.za

It was the fight be­tween black stu­dents and black po­lice mem­bers that led black par­ents and former stu­dent lead­ers in the 1980s to come on board to help find a “last­ing so­lu­tion” to what seemed to be a civil war. Con­se­quently, and very cun­ningly too, this ten­sion came to be char­ac­terised as so-called black-on-black vi­o­lence – a procla­ma­tion that, in the very least, de­monised black peo­ple in the in­ter­est of pro­tect­ing white elite staff and stu­dents.

Since that day, black par­ents – led by Pro­fes­sor Pi­tika Ntuli, Ad­vo­cate Dali Mpofu and Bishop Malusi Mpuml­wana – started to get pub­licly and openly in­volved.

It must be said that many par­ents have been help­ing stu­dents in many ways in the strug­gle for free ed­u­ca­tion in South Africa dur­ing the #FeesMustFall stu­dent protests. The prin­ci­pal aim of the par­ents was to find a so­lu­tion to what seemed to be a caul­dron of brew­ing angst and in­dig­na­tion among South Africans – a civil war wait­ing to hap­pen.

In many ways, the vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion be­tween black stu­dents and black po­lice at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand last year is a pre­cur­sor and metaphor for the in­evitable and forth­com­ing wave of vi­o­lence and con­tempt by gen­er­a­tions of op­pressed and si­lenced South Africans.

The con­tem­po­rary stu­dent protests, jux­ta­posed with their in­ter­con­nec­tion with strug­gles of black peo­ple in apartheid, are plau­si­ble in­di­ca­tions of the full-blown civil war that this coun­try will have to face in the near fu­ture.

Fur­ther­more, this fu­ture civil war will be led by the poorest of the poor who are at the pe­riph­ery of our so­ci­ety and who have been wait­ing there for the prom­ise of to­tal free­dom in our life­time as pro­nounced by those who as­cended to po­lit­i­cal power in 1994.

Late last year, re­tired deputy chief jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke joined what was an al­ready ex­ist­ing sup­port of black par­ents for the call of free ed­u­ca­tion. At that mo­ment of his par­tic­i­pa­tion in fa­cil­i­tat­ing a way for­ward, parental in­volve­ment grew exponentially in the strug­gle of stu­dents and work­ers; not lim­ited to this, he ap­proached other equally emi­nent South Africans to help him to con­vene the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Cri­sis Fo­rum.

The emi­nent co-con­ven­ers of the fo­rum are Mpuml­wana, Ntuli, Arch­bishop Thabo Mak­goba, Jabu Mabuza, Sello Hatang, Jus­tice Yvonne Mok­goro, Jay Naidoo, Mary Met­calfe and Santie Botha. Nat­u­rally, stu­dent ac­tivists at the on­set ques­tioned the open in­volve­ment of th­ese emi­nent South Africans af­ter al­most two years of strug­gle with­out help.

It was dur­ing th­ese warn­ings of be­ware of “izicima mlilo” (fire­fight­ers) of the “dan­ger­ous black mid­dle class” and their paci­fy­ing and de­rail­ing tac­tics un­der the ban­ner of “find­ing last­ing so­lu­tions”, only to push to­wards the very sta­tus quo that we seek to fun­da­men­tal change.

The Western Cape #FeesMustFall lead­er­ship re­quested a meet­ing with Moseneke and it was dur­ing that meet­ing that the fears of those who had scep­ti­cism about the fo­rum were laid to rest by the charm­ing pas­sion of the former deputy chief jus­tice.

Part of the agree­ment was that the co­con­ven­ers would help to me­di­ate and solve all #FeesMustFall-re­lated chal­lenges that stu­dents and work­ers were fac­ing at univer­sity level due to protests about chal­lenges stu­dents and work­ers face at uni­ver­si­ties.

Th­ese chal­lenges in­cluded the #FreeE­d­u­ca­tion ques­tion, the #EndOutSourc­ing ques­tion, the fi­nan­cial and aca­demic ex­clu­sions of stu­dents, and other le­gal is­sues that re­lated to #FeesMustFall protests, both in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal.

To get to the point, one of the rea­sons that led to the fo­rum be­ing dis­rupted was that the con­ven­ers opted to in­clude the del­e­ga­tions of po­lit­i­cal partyas­so­ci­ated stu­dents as op­posed to the #FeesMustFall lead­ers. In pre­vi­ous meet­ings with the fo­rum, the del­e­gates were in­vited on the ba­sis that they were del­e­gated by #FeesMustFall from their cam­puses. It is a well-known re­al­ity that #FeesMustFall ac­tivists are, by and large, mem­bers of po­lit­i­cal par­ties. How­ever, they were never in­vited to the fo­rum ac­tiv­i­ties as mem­bers of their po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The rea­son for that is that stu­dents who are af­fil­i­ated with po­lit­i­cal par­ties find it hard to work to­gether and, there­fore, it was only in #FeesMustFall that black stu­dents from dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties were able (not with­out chal­lenges) to work to­gether.

The con­ven­ers made the mis­take of invit­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties, as well as AfriFo­rum.

From the #FeesMustFall po­si­tion, it seems that the fo­rum is in it­self a plat­form for con­sol­i­da­tion of civil so­ci­ety so that it can rally be­hind the ban­ner of #FeesMustFall in an aid to col­lec­tively fight for free ed­u­ca­tion as a South African so­ci­ety.

The ques­tion re­mains: Does the fo­rum have the re­quired ca­pac­ity and pedi­gree needed to lobby gov­ern­ment to give time frames? Maxwele is a stu­dent ac­tivist based at Univer­sity

of Cape Town and com­mu­nity or­gan­iser

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