The youth still fights to be heard, 46 years later

On June 16, the youth of 2022 braved the cold weather and hostility from authorities to sound the alarms

Disappointment was etched on the faces of several young marchers, as the memorandum with their demands was handed over away from public view, at the ‘Youth Day Parade’ hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) on June 16, 2022.

Instead of collecting the memorandum in front of the crowd of about 200 people gathered on the Union Building’s lawns, those leading the parade met with representatives from the presidency on the side lines.

“I am feeling disappointed because we went through a lot to come and deliver this memorandum; from organising and mobilising. We were expecting someone from the presidency to come and receive this memorandum,” said Zamajozi Sithole, projects officer of the youth leadership program at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

“[It] just tells me that young people are still not taken seriously, and it does make me question: will our memorandum be taken seriously?”, said Sithole.

Simon Witbooi, member of the Khoi community that has been camping outside the president’s office for over three years in protest, said he had “seen protests like these” come and go, with nothing done once memorandums are handed over.

But officials promised this time would be different and the issues would be deliberated and resolved. A tall order, considering some of the demands.

The memorandum made calls for better service delivery, climate justice, sustainable employment for youth, a universal basic income of R1 500, and the eradication of corruption, xenophobia, and crime.

Cameron Rodrigues, a University of Pretoria student, said she wanted the government to start listening to the youth’s voices calling for “climate justice” as it equates to education justice.

The youth of 2022 came out in their hundreds to voice out their concerns to the presidency. Photo: Keamogetswe Matlala

Calling for gender equality, Soul City Institute social mobiliser, Nathi Ngwenya said, “we are against patriarchy” and could work with government to bridge current inequalities.

The parade commemorated the 46th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto Youth Uprising, where students protested the Apartheid government’s efforts to make Afrikaans the medium of instruction in township schools.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Zaki Mamdoo from AKF said: “the youth are the answer. We have solutions to our crises, we are able to lead, organise and […] to present ourselves as the hope for the future of this country”.

The foundation plans to meet with involved stakeholders on July 16, 2022, to follow up on the progress made in meeting their demands.

FEATURED IMAGE: Children as young as eight joined in on the march, putting their best feet forward to secure their future. Photo: Keamogetswe Matlala


EDITORIAL: Enough is enough!

South Africa is in crisis. In a very short space of time, a dense fog of violence has engulfed the country, unleashing countless acts of gender-based violence and xenophobia that have unravelled the rainbow in our nation. At Wits Vuvuzela we have been moved to dedicate this issue to confronting these two ills.


Gauteng Premier worries about the people of his province

Reinventing Pan-Africanism in the Age of Xenophobia, a international symposium, was hosted by the WISER Institute last week.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura says he worries about the people of his province as “many of those [people] come from the rest of the continent”. Makhura was speaking at the discusson on pan-Africanism in the age of xenophobia, hosted at Wits University by Wiser, (the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) and the Ahmad Kathrada Foundation.

Makhura said the the dangers of xenophobia lie not only in the “absence of opportunities” but also in narrow “national interests”. Makhura said that if we want to build a great Africa we can no longer make “catching up” with Western civilization our intention; we must offer something new and unique to the rest of the world.

“If there is something Western capitalism teaches us, is that in fact you can even become more less of a human being as your material needs are met,” said Makhura.

The two-day symposium aimed to fostering dialogue on a number of issues affecting the African continent including xenophobia, racism, tribalism, nationalism and colonial boundaries.

Other speakers on the day included academics Neocosmos and Associate Professor Suren Pillay.

Michael Neocosmos, an academic, stressed that it remains problematic to associate xenophobia with poverty and that research shows that some 65% of South Africans feel that the country’s borders should be secured through electric fencing which is a good indication that xenophobic attitudes are prevalent throughout society.

He also mentioned that people live in subhuman conditions and the assumption is that poor people can’t think, this means that we exclude them from what we think humanity is.

“If we want to expand pan-Africanism it means we must expand knowledge,” Neocosmos said.

SLICE OF LIFE: Where is our humanity?

A week ago I had a conversation with a colleague of mine about xenophobia. She told me about a story she was covering where foreign nationals were protesting against the arrest of their friends.

More than 400 foreign nationals, including women and children, were forcibly taken out of the buildings in Johannesburg CBD at 2am. I then recalled the same thing happened the week before in Sunnyside, Pretoria. The similarities sent chills down my spine.

Our government has started a procedure called Operation Fiela, which in Tswana usually means “Sweep the Dirt”. According to SABC, the government started this operation to “target areas, buildings and spaces which are known to be frequented by criminals”.

Now, the problem is not what they may be trying to achieve, but the manner in which they are going about it.

See, I happen to be in a serious relationship with a beautiful young woman from Zimbabwe and I became scared for the safety of my partner. She came to South Africa because the political situation in Zimbabwe is not favourable to those who are from an opposition party. She said she also came here because “unlike in South Africa, there are very scarce opportunities for young bright graduates due to the declining economy”. Now in South Africa, she has experienced mild xenophobic attacks in the past and is scared for her safety considering the recent attacks.

“Where exactly is this rainbow nation that we always speak highly of?”

I ask myself, where is our humanity? Where exactly is this rainbow nation that we always speak highly of?

We live in a country where, instead of being our protectors, the police are responsible for brutality towards innocent people. In 2012, there was a massacre in Marikana, North West. Police shot miners with live ammunition resulting in 34 deaths. The shooting has been compared to the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 when police opened fire on protestors and killed 69 people.

Where are our protectors?

We had the police inflicting brutality on our nation’s people during the apartheid regime and it is still happening in this so-called democracy. I am not saying there aren’t any good cops, but our government has not created a safer police force. Our government has failed us.

We recently celebrated Freedom Day and I am asking myself what we are freed from, when we are still shackled by anger and mental slavery. Nelson Mandela probably did not have this vision for South Africa, this was not his aim when he spent 27 years in prison.

Our government has become an enemy to our fellow African brothers and sisters. The recent violent attacks against foreign nationals have given rise to the question: Is South Africa really a united country or are we an angry, pained and divided nation.

Let us heal as a nation, find love in diversity. I, as a black bisexual woman in love with a foreign national woman, would like to take pride in South Africa’s healing as a nation. This goes beyond just having tolerance but means accepting our fellow Africans. Let us show the spirit of ubuntu and be a true rainbow nation that cultivates diversity. We all come in beautiful forms and, essentially, we are all human.

Perhaps one day as a country we will achieve a state of acceptance as described by writer Eckhart Tolle: “Acceptance looks like a passive state, but it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness.”

Q&A with Mia Couto

LETTER TO ZUMA: Mia Couto, a revered Mozambican writer, wrote an open letter to  Zuma concerning the xenophobic attacks.

LETTER TO ZUMA: Mia Couto, a revered Mozambican writer, wrote an open letter to Zuma concerning the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

What motivated you to write an open letter to Jacob Zuma?

It was the news that arrived from our Mozambican compatriots who were subjected to the persecutions in Durban and in other cities. I, my brothers and my family had, in that week, created a cultural foundation. And we thought that we couldn’t stay indifferent to what was happening.

As a Mozambican and a writer, what do you think should/can be done in order to remedy the situation?

I think that it does not only depend on the actions of government. That action is decisive and above all, governments can’t find scapegoats as an excuse for not taking on their responsibilities towards those who are the poorest, from one side or the other side of the border. But other things also need to be done.

South Africans have a stereotypical image of Mozambicans. They are simply “work force”. They aren’t people who produce thought, sentiments and art. That would be the responsibility of Mozambique: to make known the richness of culture and diversity of Mozambicans. So that the South Africans can know them better. We can only like what we know. And even while we are neighbours, we still don’t know a lot about each other.

In your letter you mention that feelings of solidarity and the remembrance of a shared history should be recreated. Why and how do you think this should be done?

After my letter had been published I found out that among the youth that commented with me about this issue, many were completely unaware of how much Mozambique supported, with much sacrifice, the fight against apartheid. It’s sad how history is lost so quickly. The past to stay alive needs to be recreated.

What do you think of Zuma’s response to your open letter?

It was a surprise. I never imagined that a president would respond to a simple writer be him foreigner or national. I am sure that he wasn’t exactly talking to me. But he wanted to speak to others and explain the internal reasons that create xenophobic feelings. Over this part of the letter I would prefer not to comment.

Do you think enough has been done by the South African government to prevent the persecutions of Mozambicans?

Like I said in the letter, our view in Mozambique is that what was done was little and late. Also, I think that those who encourage these phenomenons of violence can’t be left unpunished.

Do you think that the long term and short term measures that Zuma mentioned on implementing in his letter will help to resolve the issues that triggered the attacks?

There is no country in the world where the large social crisis don’t search for a culprit that is always the “other”, being that other from another religion, race or nationality.
What governments should do is to work so as to protect all citizens that live legally in their country, so that they live without fear and with the right to have hope and belief in their future.