9

i did my best to compile some helpful resources linked to the #FeesMustFall movement in this post i did ‘From a Number of Different Eyes and Mouths’ and this second post which shared more thoughts as well as first-hand experiences of others. But i knew that to really get a feel for what was happening and to be a more active part of it, we needed to get on the ground and so we did that today for 5 and a half hours.

My Facebook status after i got home read like this:

i am a little embarrassed at how tired i am after just one day on the ground [5 and a half hours i think] and probably the easiest day of what has been happening so far, but glad that i went. Tomorrow at 11 i think there is the Academic led march and so if you haven’t experienced this on the ground yet that might be an excellent opportunity for you to go.

Super stoked with the staff of Christ Church Kenilworth who diverted a day of training into a day of a different type of training and was good to see Annie Kirke, Jared Ruttenberg, Mark Russell and others coming through as well as Valerie Duffield Anderson, Duncan ‘Tydvirtaal’ Hobbs, Vivien Pluddemann, Alexa Russell Matthews and Grant Stewart with Laura Richter doing supplies and i’m sure i’m leaving people out just that we connected with today. Also met up with Grace Claire De Jager on the way up.

Maximum respect for Joshua Ramsbottom who, in the face of a thesis that he needs to complete and hand in, came through because of feeling the need to be there and his 2 hours i challenged him to easily became 6 or more.

Cos it was really hot and i struggle to sit in the same place for too long [and yes four plus hours is too long] but then there were a lot of people walking through the crowds handing out water and fruit and they had sandwiches and chips and more at the side. tbV summed it up nicely at the end of the day:

Valerie Anderson:

Thank you to all who have donated fruit, sandwiches, and water! One of my favorite memories of today is bags of oranges being passed through the crowd. Thank you also to the many student servant-leaders who walked around making sure everyone was hydrated, offering food and care at stations around campus, collecting trash and cleaning up, and practicing true hospitality and caritas. Our nation is in good hands.

Once we heard where the students were gathering we jumped in the car, invited a bunch of mates who had expressed interest and made our way up to UCT. I did my best to live tweet for as long as i could before my phone battery died, for those who could not be there but were interested in what was happening. We listened to a couple of the leaders speaking about general protest stuff and then were thoroughly entertained by these next two:

Just heard stories from a bus driver from yesterday about how police tried to stop him taking students to parliament and he just found other routes. Charismatic guy!

Just had a powerful poem from a student about yesterday’s incidences of violence against a few of the students who were arrested which I had already read about on FB. Really great response. An impressive mix of students here great to see.

They then announced we were going to do a slow march up to upper campus and so we started moving – a decent crowd had gathered and there was a huge vibe with songs and laughter and excitement and signs all around – really good mix of students of all races and a bunch of people who clearly weren’t students who came to support. Then as we were moving out of lower campus we suddenly heard a big noise from behind and this crowd of toy-toyi’ing people started moving towards us and there was a huge cheer. Turns out they were a bunch of the staff/academics who had been in a meeting and were now coming to show their solidarity with the students. A very powerful moment and the first moment i really felt emotional [there were a number of these throughout the day]

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i was a little bummed when i noticed that some of the students were holding signs that at the back of them said quite clearly, “Fuck the Police”, especially when i counted four of the signs and each one of them was being held by a white student girl – nice way to incite, ladies. But fortunately nothing seemed to come of that.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsAs we continued to march towards upper campus, there were inspirational moments on the Twitterer like this call for non-violence:

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One of the things i appreciated most from our MC guy where we were was a constant reminder to the crowds to keep the protest non-violent and to not resort to behaviour that could let those across the world call us hooligans or animals.

Eish! As i’m busy trying to compile this, i just saw this note in a #FeesMustFall group in Facebook:

Tshepo King-Mazola Lekwape

If only the SAPS fought crime the same way they fight students who want a better future for the entire country, S.A would be a better place!
i have a friend who works as a youth worker and a police reservist who has been assuring me that the police have acted within their legal rights [not necessarily the same statement as ‘done the right thing’] throughout the Cape Town protest [and i think he said around the country] but i have only heard negative things with regards to the police from everyone else, so it’s hard to tell for sure, but the students are definitely feeling that the police are against them. i have seen some pictures which are hard to explain away in terms of thinking otherwise.
Today they had a presence when we moved from campus to campus, but apart from that were pretty much in the background and i didn’t see anything untoward at all, but today’s proceedings were incredibly peaceful while we were there.
There was also the great irony this week of Oscar Pistorius being released from prison after serving 10 months of his five year sentence for murder, while protesting students were being gathered up and stuck in prison. Another example of white privilege? Possibly combined with celebrity privilege?
Back to the march – the crowd parted to make way for the staff and academics to go through and join the front and they were cheered on as they moved through – singing commenced and everyone started moving again and we made our way to the upper campus – a lot of cameras in the crowd and on the side of the roads and on bridges as we made our way across.
Quite emotional for this rock man actually. Feels like being on the right side of history. Am aware this has potential to go pair any moment but cancelled a lunch to be here cos this is important and so much bigger than me
A moment of tbV and i realising the entire crowd was about to go right past where we had parked our car and how that could be a bad idea if things got a bit testy. Oh well.
i continued to send out tweets and status updates trying to give a vibe of the vibe as we experienced it:
Nearing upper campus. Songs and cheers and posters and laughter.
Don’t be a person at a distance taking photos. Come on down. Face this alongside us
Standing behind the dancers now. Best seats. Clearly need isiXhosa course two soon.
When we arrived we made our way up to the jammie steps and tbV and i and Josh who we had found on the way were standing towards the back of the plein area although a LOT of people behind us as well and various speakers had turns with the megaphone. The main guy someone said was with RFM and i really enjoyed his attitude and words – the following is just bits and bytes of what i could hear and get typed:
“When injustice becomes a law resistance becomes a duty.” Listening to a speaker now – true words. Flashbacks to 1976 [Not for me I was two. I didn’t have the fine motor skills to make a fist].
Calling on Max Price to address us [Vice-chancellor, but i discovered he basically runs the University whereas the chancellor is mainly a figurehead apparently] We want him to tell us what was his contribution in the meeting as our leader
Academics saying they are willing to sacrifice one percent of their salaries if need by – applause – they are committing themselves if needs be. We appreciate the academics, black and white, we appreciate you if you are speaking our language. If you are not you are against us. You are either for us or against us. Dean of med school is here. All the academics are here. It must be clear today who is running the university.
Education is a right just like they promised us in 1994. We have compromised.
New lady speaker. Hard to always hear everything that is happening so just sending through sound bytes. Must be thousands gathered here. Just announced that as we speak the army is at the UKZN university.
Looks like an academic is about to speak – we all just sat down
Dean about to read a statement. Black academic caucus and academic Union met this morning. We are standing in solidarity with the students – march tomorrow 11am led by academics with list of demands starting on Jammie steps.
Vice President of academic Union about to speak. Kelly from academic union. We stand in solidarity. academics released a statement in support:
Demand one: Interdict must go and charges must be dropped.
Demand two police brutality must stop.
Each member of executive must personally come and account for incident and monday’s events by monday.
University to reschedule exams – much cheering.
And communicate what the plans are for concluding the year.
Admin must engage with over and report transparently with us how funding works in this institution.
Finally for UCT to hold govt to account for current funding crisis.
These were met with much applause.
Something happening in isiXhosa now much cheering
Now vice of health speaking. Faculty unequivocably supports need for student s to address these things and to protest peacefully. Demand two things – immediate release of all students who have been arrested and immediate suspension of court order that’s been asked for. Call on university to put moratorium on fees for next year. And to look for alternative means to find funds. We will review fee structure – we cannot have funding as a barrier on higher education. Stakeholders must immediately engage in dialogue that takes is forwards and not twenty years back. The problem today is not a student problem it is a problem for the nation and up to all of us to solve it decisively and peacefully
i realise this is getting a little long, so let me try summarise a little. While this was going on, oranges and water were being passed around and people were sharing suncream and just general good vibes. They made an announcement that next week there will be no exams – much cheering. Max Price arrived.
Don’t be distracted – we don’t have celebrities in this struggle. Max price had joined us and we want to hear from him, but later on – laughs. It will be announced later if Max speaks and when he speaks and what does he speak. Max is sitting on the steps just below the current speaker who is the main guy who has been speaking – think he is RFM representative.
max
From a distance Max Price actually looked a bunch like tbV’s dad which was weird. But he’s not.
Then the MC guy called for discipline from the protesters much better than i captured: Be quiet and be disciplined comrades – we must show the world today we are not hooligans or animals. We ask sincerely that everyone be disciplined. And quiet as possible.
So they made Max wait and to his credit he sat on the university steps surrounded by thousands of students, most of who were not super pleased with him and it must have been quite unnerving for him i imagine. [His son was arrested this week and in another article i read that he said that he was really proud of him]
Listened to a really powerful poem and then a girl came forward to share what i thought was going to be another poem but was actually a list of statements. But as she started to speak a police helicopter flew over and was really loud and distracting – hard to know if it was intentional or not but caused a little bit of disruption.
The struggle must continue until every worker on campus earns a living wage. Much applause. A bunch of statements defending the workers.
New girl. Clearly we are disrupting this country. Even when we sit quietly the police and country still disrupt us. This is a national crisis. We cannot allow our students in ukzn to be brutalized. We cannot allow our students in Stell to be surrounded by riot police and not allowed to come join us.
Some guy shouted out, “An injury to one is an injury to all!” – much applause
It’s good that the vice chancellor is here because the vice counsellor must account. Why on Monday when we were protesting peacefully they put the riot police on us. New lady. I would like the vice chancellor to look me in the eye – Max stands up and turns to face her. Telling story of herself and four others being arrested. So you’re very brave to be here and look at us with arrogance on the eyes – students booing and shouting her down. You set the police to treat us as dogs. Something about being here today only cos your white son was arrested. Crowd not in agreement I don’t think.
Tough to be Max price right now. Is sitting down again. But totally in the middle of the students. Girl going off but speaker has taken away from her and still going off and wagging finger
tbV commented on this:
What I loved about this point in the day is that although she was expressing her pain she was becoming quite verbally violent and the crowd did not stand for it. They shut her down very quickly, shouting “You do not speak for us”. Then the main leaderrestored order and said, “This is the first violence we have seen today. And we will not stand for it.” The student body was phenomenal throughout at directing through crowd response! I’ve never seen a group of over 2000 collectively make decisions and negotiate space and voice in this way before.
One thing you must learn today is to never ever police black pain
That is a very important statement. i think i need to think through it a whole lot more. But i think as white people we tend to want to tell others how they must respond to their pain. This is acceptable and that is not acceptable. And we need to be so careful with this. We like things to be neat and orderly and comfortable but pain is not that – it is messy and hurting and uncomfortable and so we need to be okay to create spaces where it is allowed to run its course. i don’t know if i’m convinced that we must never ever police black pain [although i possibly don’t understand exactly what the speaker was saying] but we definitely need to be so so careful when it is being expressed that we don’t try to shut it down or calm it or neatly package it into something that feels acceptable to us – would love some discussion on this.
This part of the protest also revealed what seemed like cracks in the leadership and at one point people seemed to be physically trying to wrestle the loudhailer away [some wanted Max to speak, some really seemed to want to play a power move of not letting him speak despite him having been there so long]. So that was a bit disconcerting – apart from those moments, i think the majority of the rest of the day went really well and largely smoothly and let’s be honest aren’t we all just making this up as we go along because of how confusing and tricky and complicated and unprecedented it all is.
At this point my phone had also died and so i took some notes in tbV’s notebook. So this happened before they decided to let Max speak and i think it was a new guy, not the original MC:
We have to be honest with each other and have to take each other seriously. This is not isolated on the national discourse of dispossession. We envision a de-polarised society. Max Price is not going to address us [crowd did not dig that] These demands are non-negotiable. Yesterday’s activities were a clear indication that 1994 changed focus for us. It’s about restoring the dignity of the black child. Comrades we are not here to throw a TRC. We are not here to massage white people’s feelings. We are not here to massage Max Price’s feelings. In fact we are calling on Max Price to resign [again crowd not happy
Still peaceful but has gotten a lot more chaos up front with people chanting “Max must fall” which was shouted down by “Fees must fall” and a bit later “Let him speak.”
Bit of disunity at the front as some of the angry people are saying things the crowd is not agreeing with.
Seems like a bit of crisis of leadership
Max given mic bit having sound issues so getting ready to speak

Leaders insist on he uses megaphone crowd chanting use the mic as there is a mic set up by the hall which is much louder

This was very interesting and went back and forth a lot. There was a proper mic set up at the hall which was above the crowds and apparently they couldn’t get it closer and so there was the symbolic nature of being in the middle of the crowd and speaking to them vs moving to a place of physically being above the crowds [and the power that goes with that] and so for a very long time it went back and forth and Max actually spoke out why he realised the importance of trying to speak from the middle with the loudspeaker. Only problem was it was really difficult to hear what he was saying and a lot of people couldn’t hear at all and so kept interrupting and chanting ‘Use the mic’ and after a long while and having shared some of his thoughts he eventually did move to the top and speak through the mic. But that was quite interesting – you can have the symbolism and have most of the people partially hear or not hear at all or you can have the good sound and be creating a symbolic space. Tough one but the majority crowd definitely wanted to hear what he had to say.

Then the main MC came up again and reminded people of the call for discipline. A woman got up and led a song which she tried to get everyone to sing with moderate success:

All I see is cops out here in the street
I swear it feels like 1976
All I see is cops out here in the street

Black bodies on the streets black bodies on the streets

She then did some spoken word which was really good and included:

The slave ships never left. They’re prettier this time. We built mansions with our hands and then returned to our shacks. Slavery is easy when you don’t know you’re enslaved.

Then back to the song with half the crowd joining in. The white activists didn’t seem AS amped with the song and i didn’t see many of them singing.

This all happened while the leaders of the movement had a quick powwow to try and figure out the plan and whether Max would speak or not.

Max eventually got to speak:

First point is we have a common interest here and altho you think we are on opposite sides I wish I was on your side. I believe the national student campaign is an important one. That the last five ways the amount of money we get per student is going down per year.

And then my phone pretty much died. Max Price’ speaking was a mix – hard to hear and so some of it was shouted down and there was a back and forth with whoever had the mic at the top and wanted him to come use it and so kept interrupting and him trying to speak and then eventually going to the top. Dunc and i had different feelings about what he said – Dunc had been impressed with him til he started but thought he just needed to apologise more than explain which may have come across as justifying although i thought his explanations made sense and were helpful [but may not have been the best in that moment]

tbV and i left soon after Max had finished speaking as we had been there a long time and it wasn’t too clear what was going to be happening next and seemed like the bulk of the stuff had happened. They announced that the exams would be pushed back by at least a week to make sure that they would not be interrupted. i think shortly afterwards they moved across to support some of the stuff that had been happening at CPUT. Also they announced at one point that something like 600 high school students would be joining and i think tbV mentioned at one point that they had arrived – the future generation of varsitygoers.

So i’m not sure if that was helpful at all, but hopefully it gives you a bit of a glimpse of proceedings. Everything was remarkably peaceful and they kept calling for calm and discipline from the front and reminding everyone this is a non-violent revolution. They gave updates from around the country so we had some idea what was happening at different institutions. There was a lot of positive energy and vibe and people wanting to be able to study and see this country turned around which makes it so much more frustrating and angrifying to come home and read largely ignorant or misinformed comments by a host of people online who don’t get it and don’t seem to have made a lot of effort to understand at all.

The Twitterer has been on fire with this #FeesMustFall tag with Trevor Noah even linking in a blog post that he thought gave people helpful insight on it.

The incredible news that the Cape Argus took the challenge issued to them by the movement of letting students from #FeesMustFall co-edit tomorrow’s Argus newspaper which you can read about here.

As well as news that students in London will be marching in solidarity and messages from other universities around the world showing their support.

And more – those are some of the glimpses into this day of #FeesMustFall:

Closing off with his picture and words shared on my friend Ashley Visagie’s wall:

police van

If South Africa fails to act now and make the right moves when it comes to education (not just Higher Education), we should only have to wait another 10 years to experience the full measure of an educational system in crisis and one which reinforces the structural inequality of the past. We should celebrate that ‪#‎FeesMustFall‬ has brought to the surface a discourse on power, privilege and oppression – of access and control. The shadows and phantoms of a separated society are being directly confronted when students are able to unite and join hands regardless of race. Of course no struggle comes without a cost and the powers that be will fight vehemently to crush the spirits of those who would confront the dominant social script. The photo below of the touching hands was taken by Michael Moss and I must say it is hard not to cry looking at it. A new generation of young people are offering South Africa a kind of psychological detox that has long been needed in a nation suffering from post-apartheid fatigue. We should all take a moment to reflect on how we suffer from privilege and/or oppression…

[For my first post on #FeesMustFall, click here]

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