I’ve learnt, not only through my participation and involvement in #FeesMustFall, but my upbringing and other social justice work, that in moments when others aren’t able to carry themselves, I have to extend comradeship in order to continue the cause that we are collectively fighting for .
By Sarah Mokwebo
When comrades, from what is often termed historically disadvantaged universities, who have been wrestling with the plight of inequality in their institutions exert their frustration at the system through the use of physical force and violence, we should REFUSE, as those still sitting at the negotiation table to facilitate the allaying of whiteness’ fears, to be USED to condemn the actions of our fellow comrades.
Instead, in our privileged taking over of the narrative, it is important to highlight that violence comes in many forms, that the violence inflicted by protesting students is not the only form of violence taking place. We should always be clear that since the dawn of democracy, our comrades have exhausted all the non-violent forms of protest that white supremacy approves of, and now they find themselves in a position where they no longer have anything to lose nor to bargain with, when they finally take to the streets to demand change.
During shutdown and occupation, solidarity calls for one to leave one’s warm comfortable bed in a university residence to share a thin layer of mattress at Solomon Mahlangu House with a student that, under typical circumstances, would be homeless and not even know where their next meal would come from, or what temperature it would be.
Solidarity demands from those of us who, minutes after being shoved into the back of police vans, would already have lawyers waiting for us at police stations with bags of bail money, to hand over ourselves voluntarily in instances where fellow comrades in other universities without the resources or proximity thereto, are arrested for just gathering outside the gates of the university that rightfully belongs to them. In our surrender, not only do we legitimise their defiance, we also fuel the fire needed to continue upon being granted free bail with unconstitutional conditions.
As a black womxn, solidarity demands of me, after seeing another black womxn being inhumanely dragged into a police hippo along with several male comrades, to hand over myself to be arrested along with her, because she’s already vulnerable in this world, and how much more when she will be in holding cells by herself, at the mercy of the police system that has no regard for black life, in a world that doesn’t prioritise her womxnhood.
The violent nature of prisons and holding cells only recognise and acknowledge one’s assigned sex, and affords no regard to how one would self-identify.
The explicit exclusion of queer and feminist bodies from a protest should be countered by the refusal to partake in the protest in whatever capacity and beneficiation of the exclusionary-hyper-masculine-patriarchal-partisan-pseudo-revolution that continuously coddles fragile heterosexual masculinity.
If you are for the project of creating a new future, a new world where black does not equal exploitation, then you must refuse to allow whatever privilege white-supremacist-heteropatriarchal-capitalism allows you. You cannot absolve yourself of the responsibility of collective effort.
You cannot demand that the university goes back to normal. You cannot demand that black students produce receipts of their poverty to access education that is promised to them in the constitution. You cannot demand that the world continues to make you comfortable.
You must demand the discomfort because that is what solidarity looks like. Solidarity is being in disarray until no single black person, child and body is subjected to the disarray of the black experience in this country.
Your discomfort is what solidarity looks like.
Mokwebo is a student activist, a Wits Fees Must Fall member and one of the founders of #IAmOneInThree.
Thato Magano contributed to this article
Wits Vuvuzela: Female student protester strangled during demonstration, April 4, 2016
Wits Vuvuzela: Fees protest divides, April 8, 2016
Wits Vuvuzela: We’re here and we’re queer!, July 25, 2015