Oct 29, 2015

Student Protest, #feesmustfall

Rhodes University was not exempt from the wave of protests that swept the country last week. Many, now familiar scenes of protest, arrests, burning tyres etc graced the pages of both national and international media.

But what was perhaps missing from the context (indeed what might be missing from this post too) was the remarkable organisation and focus of national student bodies and the skilled deflection by Universities across the country.

Even in Grahamstown, things were volatile. There were reports of police hard-handedness even prior to the week long campus shutdown. As numbers rose so did tempers and concerns. That more violence was not witnessed, in Grahamstown if not nationally, is remarkable. Credit for this, crucial but subtle in its execution, has to go to the Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr. Sizwe Mabizela and the University management. The protest originally had the University in its sights but unity saw a saving shift to targeting national government instead.

This is what gave the #feesmustfall cry momentum. In a clever and honest move that demonstarted empathy backed by action Rhodes University (then other universities nationally) joined the protest, supported the shut down and made their way towards the barricades. So 'seen opposition' was removed or delocalised. Perhaps this is why Pretoria saw the brunt of the violence and why the bewildering absence of Blade Nzimande did little but provoke?