The student protestors of the #FeesMustFall (FMF) campaign of 2015 reminded South Africans about the vigour of a mobilised youth. From the occupancy of Empire Road, the mass march to Luthuli House and the grand finale on October 23 2015 at the Union Buildings with a noteworthy announcement about zero increments on university fees for 2016 from President Jacob Zuma. Students have mobilised again after Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement on September 19 2016 regarding the fee increments for 2017. This year’s mobilisation of students from the University of the Witwatersrand has been feeble and according to Witsies, it may be due to the FMF leadership of 2016.
“We are agitated due to comparison”, said Noni Makhura, a 3rd year PPE student. “Last year there was a huge spirit of unity, we were organised on a daily basis”.
Last year, the forefront leader of the Wits FMF campaign was the 2016 president of the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC), Nompendulo Mkatshwa, who is affiliated with the nations ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). This year there seems to be no single leader.
Protesting Wits students are being addressed by the incoming Wits SRC president for 2017, Kefentse Mkhari, the SRC deputy president for 2017, Noluthando Zuma, the SRC deputy secretary for 2017, Kamil Ali and the SRC secretary general of 2016, Fasiha Hassan, whom are all affiliated with the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA). Alongside these leading voices is Wits student, Busisiwe Seabe, who is affiliated with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). There has also been the grand re-emergence of former Wits SRC president, Mcebo Dlamini, who is affiliated with the ANC. Mkatshwa has also been subtly involved.
“This year, you are always asking yourself what is going on…the SRC last year knew what they were doing. This year the leadership is in-between. They have been in office for like a week”, said Bontle Moloi, 2nd year BSc student. “We are like the leaders, we don’t know what’s going on”.
According to Ntombi Nhlanhla, a 3rd year Medicine student, “Students are not protesting because they do not know what is happening”. Nhlanhla decided to sit out of the FMF protests this year even though she still whole heartedly believes in the cause.
“I knew why I was protesting last year and my leaders reminded me”, explained Makhura. During the 2015 FMF campaign, Makhura said that her energy was used to exert herself physically during marches. However, this year it is her emotions that are being put to the test. At the end of every day of FMF 2016, Makhura asks herself, “Why did I participate? Was it worth it?”, but she always ends with a consoling, “This is not a waste of time”.
“You are constantly convincing yourself about why you are participating…there is no united front this year”, said Kagiso Dikgale, 3rd year BA student. “It is emotionally draining”.
FMF 2016 has involved numerous discussions in the Solomon House Concourse with leadership and students. The students have been clarifying their internal demands with leadership, the leaders have been spending time “engaging and conscientising” the students and students have been openly critiquing the way they are being led.
According to Makhura, in 2015 students would go to sleep knowing what they would be doing the following day as opposed to the daily confusion of FMF 2016. “This is why a focused leadership is necessary, maybe just one voice from a leader is necessary”, said Makhura.