Spaces, Tactics and (direct) Action
University as a Site of Struggle: Contestation of Ideas, Space, and Leadership by Sello Mashibini
The spaces where most of the action took place were the university gates and Solomon Mahlangu House (SMH), formerly known as Senate House. The traditional practices of protesting such as singing and sloganeering were mainly happening at the gates. From my observation, the gates were significant spaces as they symbolised the power of the protest because it was through occupying the gates that we were able to shut down the university. The space in SMH was turned into a vibrant and dynamic area for debates amongst academics and students, tutorial space for the academic programme, a mass meeting area for the protesters, a meeting area for political engagements and a reception area for the Wits #FeesMustFall Movement.
The major contestation for power within the movement was among the student leaders, various student political formations and between genders. This contestation was predominantly about the power to dominate leadership positions and influence the direction and nature of the protest. On the other hand, there was contestation for power between management/ the executive of Council and the students. The executive of Council was summoned to SMH by students and was made to sit throughout the evening; this signified one of the biggest disruptions of the power management held over students. Students had forced management to suspend the academic project many times, which is an indication that the power to dictate to the students on the continuation of the academic programme was taken from management.
The FMFM served as a wake-up call and has managed to unravel hidden struggles in the university. It opened up a dialogue about decolonisation and exposed how deeply embedded patriarchy is, and that it is part of the university culture. It also exposed the racial tensions that Wits had been trying to hide or pretend did not exist. Even though the university still tries to ignore Black pain and Black marginality, the #FMFM protest was very instrumental in bringing these issues to their attention. The protest also created iconic spaces and pushed the university to change the names of these spaces. Despite these valuable lessons from #FMF, its impact on questioning the idea of a free university education remains unresolved.
Gender, Power and Identities
#FeesMustFall: Black Women, Building a Movement and the Refusal to be Erased by Simamkele Dlakavu
One of the most important principles of Black feminist thought is the value of Black women freely speaking and claiming their voices. This principle is emphasised by Black feminist poet and activist, Audre Lorde, in the above quote. During the #FeesMustFall movement that swept across university campuses in South Africa, we saw Black women, queer and trans- women claiming space and raising their voices loudly. They refused to allow a space where their voices and experiences of oppression could be silenced or side-lined. These actions of revolt often resulted in internal conflict in different Fallist movements across the country.
As argued by Pumla Gqola (2016), we often study the exclusion and marginalisation of Black women in Black led movements after it has occurred. We are always responding to the silencing of our voices. What is not often detailed is how Black women have actively contributed and in most instances, carried movements fighting for Black justice and an end to racialized inequality. We don't highlight their physical and intellectual labour; this erasure furthers the perception that Black women are always the ones complaining and dividing Black libratory movement spaces instead of building them. Therefore, in this paper, it is important that I highlight how Black women at Wits constituted the #FeesMustFall movement to secure the victory of #EndOutsourcing because patriarchy pretends that Black women do not constitute spaces, that they are not building structures nor providing logistical leadership that carries movements.
Black women were at the centre of this victory and it is important that we acknowledge their role. It's an important Black feminist project because, historically, Black women's political agency and efforts were easily erased in public memory. Within the #EndOutsourcing movement we recognised that we had to operate effectively in order to achieve political results with a few numbers of students. We created task teams which included: insourcing; logistics; legal; direct action; media and political education. Black women were the driving engines of these task teams. As Black women, we continued mobilising after the #EndOutsourcing victory. Mobilising for the continuation of #FeesMustFall, mobilising to #BringBackOurCadres who were suspended or expelled for their political activities, as well as mobilising against rape culture with our naked protest titled: #IAmOneInThree.
Solidarities from Beyond
A comrade from beyond the frontier by Crispen Chinguno
Whose transformation? Public institutions of higher learning and the commoditisation of university spaces.It is very easy to rationalise and understand arguments when they are full of facts and logic. For example, the university marketing drive was based on the claim that outsourcing non-core services will reduce expenses at public universities with continuing decreases in funds from the government. However at what point do we need to challenge this logic when it is clearly for the benefit of a few?
The term "transformation" has been thrown around quite frequently since 1994; two decades later and snail-paced work has been done to transform our country. And it is some of that work (for example, since 1994 more Black households have access to electricity and water) that gets thrown in our faces whenever we question the government on when land distribution and actual curriculum changes will take place in our education system. We have been told to wait. However, this is difficult when we can see that, while there are a few Black executives and board members in business and industry, none of the neoliberal rhetoric of "wealth trickling down" to the masses has taken place.
The government is at the heart of the problem at hand alongside university management
with regards to the #FeesMustFall and #End- Outsourcing protests. The ANC government's adoption of neo-liberal policies has had detrimental implications for Black students and Black workers at public universities. Government funding to all higher learning institutions began to decrease from the late 1990s. By 2013, government funding to tertiary education was less than 1% of the country's GDP. Universities had to position themselves as profitable companies "which should be run according to the managerial principles and profit-making imperatives of the private sector" (Habib, A and Parekh A, 2001: 8). This means that universities should run like private companies that sell well-packaged knowledge through training and research. This commercialisation of knowledge resulted in institutions separating work done at the institution into "core" services (i.e. "the reason we exist"- to sell knowledge and conduct research) and "non-core" services. Non-core services would be outsourced to private companies so that universities could effectively and efficiently focus on "core" activities.
Instead of transforming themselves to reflect the South African landscape with increases in Black academics and adopting a de- colonised curriculum, our universities transformed into market-oriented entities that favour a small but highly-paid management team and a large but highly-underpaid support staff.
The book launches will be held at the Morris Isaacson High School Hall on Saturday, 24 June, 2017 and Wits University Senate Room (Solomon Mahlangu House) on Thursday, July 27, 2017.
** This is are extracts from "Rioting and writing: Diaries of Wits Fallists". Published by SWOP (Society, Work and Development Institute), written by Editorial Collective: Crispen Chinguno, MorwaKgoroba, Sello Mashibini, Nicolas Bafana Masilela, Boikhutso Maubane, Nhlanhla Moyo, Andile Mthombeni and Hlengiwe Ndlovu. Authors: Hugo Canham, Simamkele Dlakavu, C. Anzio Jacobs, Bandile Bertrand Leopeng, Nonkululeko Mabaso, Tebogo Molobye, Ntokozo Moloi, Ashley Nyiko Mabasa, Tebogo Radebe, Neo Sambo and Cathrine Sibusisiwe Seabe.