Cronjé: Winter is Coming for South African Universities

Frans Cronje

Frans CronjeInstitute of Race Relations (IRR) CEO and scenario planner Frans Cronjé recently warned on Netwerk24 that South Africans should carefully reconsider their interpretation of the events which have been transpiring on South African university campuses since 2015.

The year 2015, referred to by the Rational Standard‘s own Nic Haussamer as “the Year of the Social Justice Warrior”, saw the rise of a broadly leftist student movement which has operated under hashtags such as #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall, #TuksSoWhite, #OpenStellenbosch, and #AfrikaansMustFall. Cronjé says that this “small revolution” could have large, dangerous repercussions, and may lead to South Africa’s own version of the Arab Winter – a term coined, according to Cronjé, by Israelis who foresaw the tragic consequences of the Arab Spring in its early days.

Cronjé notes how the “wave of democracy” narrative constructed by the Western media was, on the whole, wrong about what ended up happening in the Middle East. Says Cronjé (translated from Afrikaans) –

“The ‘spring’ quickly turned out to be a nightmare. Brutal systems of government were brought about in several of these countries (with the exception of Tunisia), and the Islamic State became a regional power in Middle Eastern politics.”

The cynical predictions of the Israelis, according to Cronjé, turned out to be correct, in contrast to the American narrative which failed to understand the dynamics and balance of power in the region.

It is important for South Africans to understand this illustration given by the Arab Spring (which was, in fact, an Arab Winter), because it helps us in our consideration of the student protests in this country. Our own press, political commentators and civil society, says Cronjé, have welcomed the student protests as heralding “a new era of academic freedom” in South Africa. Some have even gone as far as to characterize these contemporary events as more significant in the fight for freedom than the 1976 Soweto Uprising, when dozens of school children were shot and killed by Apartheid police while protesting against the imposition of Afrikaans on their schools as the language of instruction.

Cronjé and his colleagues, however, were not convinced by these optimistic conjectures, and suggested early on that the push for the removal of the Rhodes statute at UCT would only be the first of the students’ demands, which would eventually culminate in South African universities becoming second-rate institutions. He believes that the former Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Jonathan Jansen, was correct in saying that within a decade, no South African university would be highly regarded on the international stage anymore.

To the racially-obsessed South African commentariat (or, what our own Malusi Ndwandwe would call ‘race-pimps’) the facts are irrelevant, says Cronjé, citing the fact that in 2015, around 82% of all university admissions were black students. The commentariat have constructed a false narrative whereby South African universities are “elitist, white-controlled institutions [which] must be ‘Transformed’.” On cue, the State entered the fray, and just last week passed the Higher Education Amendment Act, which, according to Cronjé, gives the State the authority to take control of any university in the country. This now effectively empowers the government to get rid of academics who dare criticize the ruling party.

Cronjé concludes –

“The victims, in many cases, will be those same academics who were part of this protest movement and supported the call for radical Transformation. The student revolution will most likely lead to a loss of academic freedom (rather than herald an optimistic ‘new era’ thereof) and ever-decreasing [academic] standards on university campuses.”