As was to be expected, the protests at UCT have not ended. As of the 15th of February, a shack has been erected on a busy road by Jammie Steps and two busts have been vandalised with spray paint. While we have dealt with the protest groups a lot in the past, it is worth reflecting on all the past protests, and the current one, in order to gain some grounding of the situation.
To do this, this article will be listing each protest in relative chronological order, explaining the assertions of that protest and then refuting the protesters’ claims and pointing out how the protest actions contradict one another.
The protest that started it all began when a nefarious political troublemaker threw excrement at a statue of mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes. Instead of being fined for health violations, he was hailed as a hero, leading onto the founding of the RhodesMustFall (RMF) movement.
Despite my disgust by this movement, it is the hardest to argue against. The claims are a lot more nebulous than the others, so it’s hard to argue empirically with them. This does not mean their concerns are legitimate. If anything, it makes them more illegitimate as a movement.
The main assertion was that UCT was “institutionally racist” – which I agree with. Giving preference to certain students based on race is racist. The second was that in order to make UCT a safe space for African students, it would have to be “decolonised”. The problem with their assertions is that they are unfalsifiable. Like the white privilege argument, the extent to which they adjust their claims will never end. They will just keep making up new aspects about the university to refer to as “colonised”.
The RMF’s biggest problem isn’t their unscientific reasoning and unending goal of decolonisation – it was their actions. From flinging faeces, to vandalising campus, to invading and occupying UCT buildings. While some try to excuse these actions as legitimate cries of students wronged, I rather condemn the actions as harmful to the institution and other students. The only people wronging students here are the protesters.
While a minor protest action, it is worth mentioning the “Remember Marikana” vandalism that appeared on campus on the 16th of August 2015. I dealt with the graffiti in detail in an earlier article but it is worth summarising the essence of the article here.
Graffiti was plastered onto UCT’s campus, damaging historical monuments among other portions of UCT property. The reason it is important to reiterate this protest is that it succinctly showed the illogical reasoning of the left-wing protests. Max Price was accused of colluding with Lonmin, UCT was blamed for the massacre, and University funds had to be used to clean up the mess, rather than fund the projects that future protest movements desired.
The major nationwide protest became even more unreasonable with its growth. A myriad of slogans were thrown around, combining the RMF and other protest groups into one amalgamation calling for free tertiary education. I also dealt with this protest last year, but as it is the overarching movement causing all these problems, it is well worth discussing again.
The assertions of this protest were that firstly, there must be no fee-hikes (this demand was fulfilled) and then there must be free education. All of this must also be accomplished without any job losses, drops in quality or the lessening of financial aid.
It is hard to argue with people who have no grasp of reality. I tried, but was typically shouted at or told to check my privilege. So a bunch of lefties decided not to listen to basic common-sense economics and continued to protest for eliminating income while raising costs. This was combined with damaging UCT property and necessitating increased security.
What revealed the largest degree of hypocrisy in this movement, however, was its twin movement:
Calls to End Outsourcing are uttered only by those who don’t understand it. Even before the major protest, the UCT Left Students Forum were trying to boycott fast food on campus for outsourcing workers. Despite their attacks on outsourced workers, they still make the demand that workers must stay once outsourcing is removed.
What they don’t realise is that outsourcing is a perfectly reasonable way to save money and enhance quality through specialised delegation. UCT doesn’t have the equipment or facilities to maintain a security force, or a fast food empire, or enough cleaners to follow the RMF around. They rely on specialised companies that are streamlined to save costs.
Calling for fees to fall, while also effectively calling for costs to be raised, either betrays complete stupidity or an apathy to the actual cause.
To add to the culpable crimes of FeesMustFall and End Outsourcing, the lack of funding towards security and the redirection of security to contain protesters has led to crime running rampant around campus.
The trend of the protests is that every action and demand fulfilled has resulted in the cause for their next protest. This is most poignant in the latest protest against a lack of student accommodation, where protesters have erected a shack (with a portable toilet) blocking a road by Jammie steps. Their claims are that UCT are giving preference to white residents over other races.
In a rare case of UCT growing a backbone, they condemned these claims. They pointed out, quite accurately, that the reason there are accommodation shortages is that the administration buildings were occupied by the RMF and FeesMustFall, disallowing administrators to assign student housing. They also point out the fact that the shortage is all for beds that are currently being held up by students needing to write their deferred exams, due to interruptions by FeesMustFall.
Even then, UCT tries to help the student body, even pleading with staff and private citizens to provide lodging. UCT is not an evil institution, despite RMF claims. It does care about its students. Plenty of Capetonians will have no doubt heeded the call to lodge students prior to this protest – but no more. They have alienated UCT and they have alienated local residents through their un-empathetic and entitled whining.
The constant distraction by whining students and the costs of repairing their damage and preventing more is no doubt slowing down the process. Once again, the protesters’ sole enemy is themselves. Their assertions contradict and their actions lead to more concerns.
But why do they continue to protest?
It is hard to see the protesters as rational agents, given the evidence that each of their myriad of protests contradict each other. They demand that all their demands are strictly adhered to, yet their demands are often contradictory. If a rational protester was to examine all their hostile requests, they would probably see that they are trying to trap UCT into an infinite cycle of protests.
If UCT keeps trying to appease these groups, problems will keep arising and the protest groups will keep protesting them by destroying property and interrupting students. With the amount of time they take to protest, squat, vandalise and whine, they could all have probably gained jobs or fundraised the money to pay for a number of poorer students.
This hasn’t happened, however, as the protesters don’t truly care about their cause. Some may think they do, but their actions betray their real motivations.
They protest for two reasons, and only two reasons. The first is a sense of belonging. Louise Richardson in her seminal work What Terrorists Want argued that one of the three driving factors which turn people to terrorism is an enabling group – a sense of belonging. These protesters are looking for the same. All the reports from so-called “Azania House” state the sense of unity, the singing, the poetry and the discussions. It seems that what these protesters really wanted was a group of friends.
The second reason is that the protesters are bored. Many of them struggle with university work. They feel insecure about it (causing them to protest in order to remove public access to university marks) and thus alienated by the cause. They no longer try to work hard, so instead they need something else to fill up the time.
So they protest. Breaking things can be cathartic. Mob mentality can be fun. It allows people to collectivise themselves in order to make up for their perceived failures as individuals. The fact that the protesters are being given free food and free accommodation through squatting adds to incentives. They’ve effectively annexed a university building and turned it into a 24 hour club.
Simply enough: they protest for fun. They like the comradery and they like the activities. They don’t want it to ever end. So they won’t let it end. They will keep finding new things to whine about, forever.
Perhaps it is actually more comforting to view the protest groups as merely bored, lonely young adults. Illogic is hard to understand, as there is nothing to understand. Selfish individuals are something we’re a bit more used to.
Unfortunately, history shows us that ideologues do have the power to shift ideas in such a way that typically rational agents will spout nonsense and believe it as doctrine.
In conclusion, the causes of the protests are no doubt self-inflicted by the protesters. Intentional or not, the protests are founded on fallacies and conducted through vandalism. In order to stop this reign of entitled terror, UCT and the student body needs to take a stand and clamp down hard on the protesters, proving to them that hurting and interrupting other people should not be fun.
As of the 16th of February, a few hours after I finished writing this article, RhodesMustFall supporters and protesters stormed residences on campus and burnt priceless artworks and photographs – among them, irreplaceable historical relics. The reason given was “burning whiteness”.
As a lover of history, and a respecter of property, this saddened me to the point that I was nearly unable to write this addition.
Simply enough, the protesters are a mob dominated by carnal passion. They find violence and destruction fun, and Leftism gives them a convenient crutch to justify their barbarity. They are a movement that has to be stopped. There is no room to negotiate anymore. They have proven themselves incapable of reason.