In the wake of a University fee hike, it seems that students from around South Africa are going insane. Those socialistically-inclined are immediately throwing their support behind the movement dubbed #FeesMustFall, despite the movement showing itself as an immature, overly-entitled and fundamentally ignorant cause.
The protests started in earnest after the announcing of increased university fees. At UCT, this was combined with an already present movement run by the UCT Left and RhodesMustFall to end outsourcing and raise the minimum wage of workers to R10 000.
It has since resulted in a nationwide protest as students blockaded entrances onto campus on Monday (19 October) and proceeded to picket. Intimidation of bystanders, staff and critics commenced.
I’ve dealt with the reason why I oppose this protest on multiple forums, in fact leading a small countermovement calling for the Right To Learn. The Libertarian perspective on this issue is valuable but neglected as Communists and professional protesters call for decolonisation and an end to the already ended Apartheid, and Social Democrats call for fully subsidised tertiary education.
From the UCT perspective, here are the demands:
- End Outsourcing of UCT staff
- Raise minimum wage of staff to R10 000
- Maintain current fees (or drop them to zero)
- Accomplish all of this without any losses of jobs or financial aid.
This article will be refuting the demands of the protesters and then criticising their methods:
The typically Socialist idea here is that employers are always bad and workers are always exploited. In the logic of the RMF and UCT Left, outsourcing allows external employers to exploit their workers,prohibiting UCT from holding them accountable. This is fundamentally untrue, as it ignores the fact that outsourced companies are still beholden to South Africa’s pretty stringent labour regulations.
An outsourced worker has the same privileges as any worker. The virtue of them working at a company other than their employer doesn’t change that. If an outsourced worker is peeved, then they can seek help from the unions or the labour courts. The UCT Left have claimed that food workers on campus have been threatened by their employer but the ability to fire a worker in South Africa is so regulated that either the employers are holding the workers’ families hostage or the UCT Left are blowing hot air.
The fact of the matter is that outsourcing is effectively hiring an employee as normal, just cheaper as the institution does not have to invest in the necessary infrastructure, training and expertise of a specialised organisation.
UCT is a university. It isn’t a security company. It isn’t a cleaning company. It isn’t a restaurant. These outsourced companies are and thus, outsourcing allows UCT to achieve the highest quality for the lowest price.
Claims of this allowing exploitation of workers shows a complete ignorance of how outsourcing works and is baloney.
R10 000 Wage
Despite what fantastical Communists may want to believe, money is here to stay. With that in mind, we need to take into account budgets and reasonable remuneration. There may be a case that workers at UCT are not being paid enough, but R10 000 is just too much. An employee is paid according to the value contributed. Cleaning staff and security, while fulfilling a vital role, do not generate the necessary value to justify a R10 000 wage.
Even if they did, UCT would not be able to afford it. For labour intensive jobs such as cleaning, numbers are superior to skill and, in this regard, a skilled R10 000 paid cleaner is not superior to a group of lower paid individuals.
What a wage hike would mean is job losses, something that the movement expressly opposes. This highlights the fundamentally contradictory aspect of their demands. You cannot simultaneously drop funding, raise costs and expect to retain all workers. There’s something called budget constraints.
If they wish to pursue this demand, they will have to drop the others, or be willing to lose the majority of workers to retain a few. Of course, this may not be a problem for them – as Socialists seem to only care about the workers, and not those needing work.
No Fee Increase
As someone who has to pay university fees, this is something I could hypothetically get behind – but that position ignores the justification of UCT. It is not profitable running a university. Academia doesn’t garner much money and the state, in its incompetence, fails to direct most of its massive education budget to tertiary education.
The fee hikes at all universities are needed to keep up with inflation, growing costs and a lack of government funding. Personally, I’m against government funding, but I’m pointing this out in order to justify UCT’s fee increases.
The justification for the protest is that fee hikes will keep out poor students. This is not the case. The fees are already sizeable and paid for by middle class and rich students, who subsidise students on financial aid or bursaries. The poor student will not be affected by this. In fact, it may benefit them as larger fees means more money going into financial aid.
Logic doesn’t seem to have any place in these movements, however. In fact, when arguing online with a protest sympathiser, I was told to use less logic and reason and use more emotion. The reason why that is a ludicrous statement should not have to be substantiated.
The fact of the matter is that as sad as it may be, universities can’t afford not to have these fee hikes.
Now that their demands have been shown to be ludicrous, it is important to move onto their methods and how this delegitimises them further.
Missed the target
Universities didn’t promise free education. The ANC and the Freedom Charter did. They’re the ones who are not fulfilling that promise. If the demands of the protesters are for free education, then march on Nkandla or some other seat of corruption and incompetence.
It is pretty obvious how ideologically driven these protests are, however, and socialist protesters don’t like biting socialist government hands.
The campus on Monday was pretty much evacuated due to the dangers posed by protesters. I was there and can say that I was genuinely scared running down from Upper Campus to Rondebosch main road. Protesters were wielding sticks, bricks ripped up from the ground and any manner of melee weapon they could find. They moved rocks in front of parked cars in order to stop their owners from leaving. It was “you’re either with us, or against us” in practice.
Even if the protests were confined to merely blocking the entrances to campus, this is a severe violation of other students’ rights to enter campus and use the facilities. Merely preaching that this is justice for poor students is not enough to justify this.
Blocking people trying to leave is unacceptable as well, an action that protesters did while shouting “Don’t fuck with our revolution!”
Hostages were reportedly taken as protesters invaded and proceeded to squat in Bremner building. The protesters then had the audacity to condemn the use of law enforcement to prevent further crimes.
I’m typically not one to commend law enforcement, but from footage and anecdotes, the police handled the situation well. Despite claims, there was no police brutality. Prisoners were detained, not arrested, and were even allowed to keep their cell phones as one of the detained protesters pointed out in a Facebook message.
The reason protesters started crying and getting angry is the same reason a toddler gets upset when not given a toy. They lit the fires and are now upset that they got burnt.
To their credit, a few protesters are trying to keep race out of this issue, yet they are failing overwhelmingly as a multitude of protesters on the ground and on social media constantly blame whites for all problems ever. At Rhodes University, a protest leader was recorded stating that they must not tell the whites about the protest. Whites at UCT were told to form a human shield to defend the rest of the protesters and a myriad of commentators repeatedly accuse whites of being racist and privileged regardless of any other context.
This dehumanising racism shows the vast majority of the movement for what they are – brutal racists with no regard for a united and deracialised South Africa.
This protest isn’t about a cause. It isn’t about helping the poor, ending marginalisation, checking privilege or lowering fees. These protesters just like to protest. They find it fun. They like causing trouble, like destroying property and primarily, like acting like spoilt children.
Please sign the petition to show the protesters that we’re sick of them: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-cape-town-end-protests-at-university-of-cape-town-uct