On 1 November 2017, UCT students and staff gathered on the steps and plaza in front of the perhaps-soon-to-be “Saartjie” Baartman Memorial Hall. The meeting was chaired by a senior officer from the UCT Student Parliament, with Deputy UCT Council Chairperson Debbie Budlender acting as a secondary co-chair. The purpose of this gathering was to allow a broad range of speakers to discuss (for a few minutes each) “the institution’s view on issues such as free education, fee increments and financial exclusion”. In fact, rightly so, the discussion traversed many other issues/grievances, since ‘fee-less’ education is only part of the solution to the myriad of challenges that must be met to transform/’decolonize’ South African tertiary education.
The first speaker, Angela Trotter (spelling?), a student who claimed to have no affiliation with any structure at UCT, made a telling statement, echoing words spoken by UCT’s first registrar, Wilfred Murray, more than 80 years ago. Murray said that central management had to “justify its existence“ in terms of its ability to serve the learning process. Angela said: “We are not here for management. Management is here for us.”
She then deftly called for “a point of order” and demanded that controversial, pro-Fallist Dr Lwazi Lushaba (UCT Political Studies) be allowed to speak broadly and out of turn and called for audience acclamation. This demand was met with loud applause and shouting by some and acceded to by the chairperson.
Lushaba spoke for nearly 20 minutes (more than five times longer than any other speaker).
He immediate delineated his audience, Comrades and Black people, a called for the “defeat of White settlers”. I summarize his comments largely using his words.
At first, he kept to topic, albeit from a racial point of view: “Free education is a problem for Black not White people. This struggle is not for poor people. It is for Black people. Until we face the realities of history, will not be able to deal with the present, let alone prepare for the future. If you are Black, you are disadvantaged in every respect. If you are White, you are advantaged in every respect. The struggle for free education is not about money. The problem is the value system of education.”
Currently, “UCT is a place where Blacks are prepared to enter and compete within ‘The Market’. What we want is an educational system that is infused with different values systems and for Blacks to actualize themselves and their potential.”
“For a person to benefit individually, the society must benefit first.”
UCT continues to “teach precisely the same ideas it taught during Apartheid in order to perpetuate the colonial system. The task of thinking has been made an exclusive preserve of White people. Blacks cannot produce knowledge.”
“There is a structure [current ad hominem promotion procedures] that ensures that we are kept outside of the academy. This is not accidental. It is by design. Those who are beneficiaries of colonialism and Apartheid [Whites] and, consequently occupy [senior academic/admin?] positions must have the decency to listen to the oppressed. They will learn, even if it’s painful, they will learn.”
He refused to cede the stage when respectfully requested to do so by co-chair Budlender. He insisted on another five minutes or the meeting would “degenerate”.
“White people provoke us and tell us how to respond to the provocation. We have no autonomy of thought.”
“The goal of university education is not to gain employment, but to contribute to society.”
Currently, UCT graduates only seek jobs within the overarching “System” [free-market Capitalism?] saying: “Please employ me because I’ve gone to a White racist UCT and survived.”
He called for UCT students to create a new system that “re-humanizes and enables Blacks”.
After more forceful intervention from the chairperson, he concluded:
“We must tell the White people who are threatening to walk away that a time will come along soon when we will run UCT on our own and give them a new value system and not at the whim of ‘White’ sentiment.”
So much for the “Truth”.
Thereafter, the comments were much shorter and were more like “Dares” for people to deliver and “justify their existence”. Again, I rely on quotations.
The out-going SRC president to management: “I am sick of you placing the onus of transformation entirely on us”. “Why do you put the whole responsibility of caring for the mentally ill students on me and other students?”
A newly elected DASO-affiliated SRC member: “Chairperson, do your job and ensure that I am allowed to speak.”
A man wearing a red EFF beret: “We have come to UCT to suffer mentally, die via suicide or be murdered. White people must foot the [fee] bill for all.” “If you are rich you are White. If you are White, you are rich.” “Nothing about this university is Africa. Nothing about this university is democratic.”
When a DASO SRC speaker was heckled when he proposed that students from wealthy families must pay fees, he begged the chairperson: “Please do your job”.
When an incoming Black woman SRC member tried to speak, she was met with derision that devolved into extreme heckling. She demanded to be heard, but was silenced.
I guess the biggest “Dare” is now from UCT’s >33 000 peaceful, law-abiding, “Silenced Majority” of students and staff and the approximately 150 000 un-consulted alumni who “gained employment”, to the “do-nothing” Management. Justify your existence [and bonuses] and deal once and for all with the less than 200 law-breaking Fallists, or resign and be replaced by someone who will.