Consider the impression one would form about a political movement whose supporters destroyed precious artworks, burned cars and buses, repeatedly threw buckets of human excrement in various public buildings, attacked an elderly vice-chancellor, and entered lecture halls brandishing whips. It is safe to assume that under normal circumstances, and regardless of the identity of the perpetrators, most decent people would consider such behaviour thuggish, barbaric, and completely at odds with elementary standards of civilized conduct. Yet everything described above happened in just a few months at a single institution, the University of Cape Town, during the annus horribilis that was 2016.
These acts were all perpetrated by followers of the Fees Must Fall (FMF) movement, who were responsible for similar heinous outrages on campuses throughout South Africa during the same period. As the first few months of the new academic year have already seen major disruptions at many institutions of higher learning, in particular protests at the University of KwaZula Natal, Durban University of Technology (DUT), and Tswane University of Technology (TUT), which forced all their campuses to be shut down for weeks, it is an opportune time to attempt to shed pivotal analytical light on, or simply be reminded of, the Fallists’ true agenda.
Such an analysis must necessarily delve into the ideological lineaments of Fallism, rather than being merely content to denounce the many outrageous acts associated with it. There is, however, an undeniable connection between the two, as will be further elaborated upon later. Michael Cardo, a Democratic Alliance MP and political commentator, did some of the best early work on its nascent incarnation originally known as Rhodes Must Fall that exploded into public view in March 2015, suitably enough accompanied by an excremental projectile flung at the statue of the supposed embodiment of colonial evil, Cecil John Rhodes, a tactic that would prove to be a repeated feature of Fallist protest activity.
The forces Cardo contended lay behind the #Rhodesmustfall campaign, namely “an amalgam of racial nationalists, leftists, self-styled social justice activists, and politically correct ideologues who view the world (and the humanities in particular) through the narrow prism of critical race theory, “whiteness studies” and ‘white privilege’,” are the selfsame ones that have driven #FeesMustFall.
As the Fees Must Fall hashtag and campaign took shape in subsequent months, the South African public, and indeed many earnestly idealistic early participants, were lulled into thinking that this movement truly was primarily about eliminating university fees. This impression was significantly helped along by multiracial and multiparty student protests that culminated at the end of 2015 with a march on Parliament compelling the government to announce the scrapping of fee increases for the following year.
It soon became clear, however, that the Fees Must Fall movement, as Cardo had already opined when Rhodes’ statue was still the primary symbol of activists’ opprobrium, was unrepentantly racialist in its worldview and aggressively intent on dramatically overhauling existing curricula to better reflect an anti-Western anti-colonialist perspective steeped in critical race theory and black nationalism.
Examples of the overtly racist character of the Fallists abound. In the litany of outrageous actions recounted in the opening sentence was left out the defacing of a World War One statue near the university’s Jameson steps with the words “f ___ white people.” Additionally, those masked thugs who entered various lecture halls with whips were caught on camera saying they are fighting against white arrogance. To give some indication of just how casual this virulent strain of anti-white racism is among those subscribing to the Fallist ideology, one could hardly do better than noting that literally every week while classes were in session at UCT there were lunchtime meetings devoted to “Overcoming Whiteness,” posters for which were widely distributed across campus.
Imagine for a moment the massive media and political outcry that would have ensued if any of these incidents involved the word “black” instead of white. The howling denunciations from virtually all societal quarters would have been deafening and incessant. Instead, these events passed with nary a passing mention among media outlets or in the halls of parliament, if they were noted at all. Welcome to the “new” South Africa.
As if all of that was not bad enough, a professor in UCT’s Politics department, a particularly foul and dishonest racist agitator that this author had the unfortunate experience of encountering in person while attempting to obtain his Masters degree at the university, Lwazi Lushaba, told a large gathering of students in one of the main university buildings that while white students should be tolerated, they should be cognisant of the fact that the university is actually the rightful property of black students. So much for South Africa belonging to all who live in it. This great intellectual is also responsible for such gems as telling his first-year Political Science students that “there is no possibility of friendship between you as a Black person and you as a White person.”
Taking into account the repeated racist ravings and oft-rehashed hatred directed at white people articulated by Fallist figures over the last three years, it should have become abundantly clear that their real target is not really fees, although of course these parasitic moochers want those gone as well, but rather the erasure of any and all trace of Western (aka white) thought or influence in a standard university curriculum. This is at the heart of the decolonialist project, which essentially amounts to a complete evisceration of any whiff of the Western academic tradition or canon.
Considering that the modern university is largely a product of Western civilization, the decolonialists have a mighty struggle on their hands. I have often suggested, only half-jokingly, that the surest way to decolonise higher education in South Africa is to blow up all universities. That would certainly make more sense than attempting to extirpate all traces of Western (aka white) knowledge, figures, and concepts from all fields of study, which would incidentally leave institutions following such an educational path bereft of anything substantive to teach. After all, universities in sub-Saharan Africa were only established by European settlers, a rather inconvenient fact that Fallists completely ignore, if they are even aware of this reality.
Decolonialism, like that other buzzword widely employed throughout South African society, transformation, essentially means make more black, the obvious corollary being make less white. With Fallists, the latter is not even disguised. It would be one thing if these types were seeking to expand university courses to include previously marginalised thinkers from the global South, but that is not what they want. Theirs is instead a project of extreme racial exclusion and anti-white hatred. If the examples already cited do not suffice to convince someone of this thesis, consider a few other incidents.
Although it was not widely reported, if barely at all, when famed Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o gave an address at UCT in 2017, a student affiliated to FMF interrupted the lecture to ask, “How do we have a lecture and form a consolidated voice, as the oppressed, in the presence of those who oppress us?” In case it was not already obvious, whites are apparently the oppressors in this scenario. During the question and answer session, a white man who attempted to ask a question was drowned out by insufferably rude black hecklers, prompting Professor Xolela Mangcu to end the event.
An incident that did attract considerably more attention was the proposal by organisers of a 2018 Winter Decolonial School, part of UCT’s annual Winter School programme, that as part of the event there should be a dinner break reserved exclusively for blacks, or “people of colour.” After widespreadoutcry, the plan was cancelled, but that did not stop the Decolonial School from asserting on their Facebook page that the planned dinner was intended to “create a space where black people can come together to communicate their experiences of the day without having to shelter white fragility,” adding that they felt “in this period of interrogation of the question of Decolonisation, there is safety in black only spaces, resultant from the trauma and oppression of the past and present.”
These brave souls who are apparently so lacking in fragility that they demand safe spaces, while evidently being ardently opposed to racial oppression, tweeted on their official Twitter account that “it is time that whites get used to being excluded.” Repulsive though these pronouncements are, they rather persuasively illuminate the essential perspective animating Fallism, which is synonymous with decolonialism. This virulent anti-white racism, evident in so many cases one soon loses count, is, in other words, a feature rather than a mere bug occasionally blighting an otherwise noble movement. To treat such racism as an anomaly is, therefore, to blatantly mischaracterise this campaign and its adherents.
A similar ineluctable connection exists between this core racialist ideology and the violence that invariably accompanies just about any protest involving Fallists. By expressly subscribing to a supremacist ideology, in this case, that of black nationalism married to a thorough-going hatred of whites, and by prizing affiliation to a collective, in this case one demarcated by a certain epidermal orientation, is to be automatically and quite logically, based on such a premise, beholden to a totalitarian world-view.
Indeed, identitarianism valorising unalterable ethnic, racial, or gender markers as primary considerations overriding all others when assessing someone’s worth, or lack thereof, is inherently, always and everywhere, totalitarian. If someone accepts the premise that one race is good, a role occupied by blacks in the Fallist schema, and the other bad, a designation obviously given to whites in this instance, the “logical” thing to do is wage all-out war against the latter until they cease to exist.
This is the same mindset, if it could be so descriptively graced, one finds among white supremacists, Islamic fundamentalists, and the Hutu butchers who 25 years ago committed one of the last century’s most horrific genocides in Rwanda. The Fallists could further be compared with other deplorably ignoble groups such as, perhaps most obviously, Boko Haram, who while admittedly more violent than Fallist activists so far, are at least open about their unapologetic disdain for Western education.
It might seem harsh to equate FMF with ISIS, but this author is not alone in doing so as no less a figure than Oxford historian RW Johnson told a British newspaper that he is “comparing what the [Rhodes Must Fall] movement are doing with what Al Qaeda and Isis are doing in places like Mali when destroying statues,” as they “display the same disregard for history and hostility” in their destruction and defacing of historical artefacts.
The implications for university education posed by FMF are dire indeed, for if the Fallists achieve their aims curricula will be rendered drastically narrowed and pitifully exiguous. Education will become little more than the endless inculcation of black nationalist propaganda with no place for critical thinking, logic, debate, or exposure to ideas one might find difficult, unfamiliar, challenging, or, dare I say it, offensive.
As a practical matter, one wonders who, exactly, from the African continent, or indeed any non-Western culture, will be able to replace the likes of Plato, or Aristotle? How about Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, Shakespeare, Newton, Kepler, Grotius, Kant, Adam Smith, Hume, Rousseau, Voltaire, Condorcet, Hegel, Alexander von Humboldt, Darwin, Ruskin, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Freud, Einstein, Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, Keynes, or Alan Turing, to name just a few Western heavyweights since the Renaissance? Imagine any of these figures arbitrarily excluded from any curriculum, let alone all of them discarded as a matter of ironclad doctrine. Suffice it to say, in order to avoid landing in too much hot water with the commissars and high priests of the Politically Correct Inquisition, that the envisioned replacement team is never going to be as good as the original one.
If the wantonly deleterious effects on higher learning engendered by Fallist machinations were not bad enough, the racialist notions they promote is potentially going to see a new colour bar in hiring practices at academic institutions. A new campus movement devoted to liberal principles, Progress, issued a letter to UCT’s Vice-Chancellor expressing concern over the “Curriculum Change Framework” document published by the Curriculum Change Working Group.
Among a host of problematic elements contained within this document is a passage referring to students who “felt that while white academics had expertise in specific areas, they could not claim authority on blackness, black pain, African ideology, course material and productions, or as overseers of curriculum,” which Progress justifiably perceives as an “apparent endorsement of the idea that a colour bar should be introduced, to prevent lecturers of the ‘wrong’ race from taking charge of curriculum in general, or else in certain disciplinary areas.” This move would naturally have “grave moral and Constitutional implications,” and represent a worrying reversion to past practices of racial exclusion.
Another worrying sign of the increased prominence the Fallist movement is gaining beyond student activism, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), an openly fascist and racist black nationalist political party similarly consumed by an intense hatred for whites, recently announced that major Fees Must Fall figures would be included on the party’s list of candidates for the upcoming general elections in May. These include three figures who emerged as movement leaders and who now have an opportunity to become parliamentarians.
In light of these developments, and the ongoing protests that continue to rock and destabilise numerous campuses across the country, it is vital to challenge, in the ultimate hopes of defeating, the vicious, racist, intolerant, hateful, and intrinsically totalitarian ideology at the core of the Fees Must Fall movement, one that finds perfect expression at the highest level of South African politics in the form of the fascistic EFF. Those holding these core beliefs, which animate and inspire the extreme levels of violence and incessant vituperative excesses directed against whites repeatedly evinced in protests under the FMF banner, are seemingly intent on not merely returning South Africa to the darkest chapter in its history, but potentially plunging the country into an even more destructive all-consuming race war that threatens to culminate in a Rwanda-style genocide. From ideas flow actions, and with ideas this toxically poisonous and venomously retrograde, nothing good can ever arise.
For a longer and more in-depth analysis of the Fees Must Fall phenomenon, in particular, its ideological preoccupations, the author recommends his own piece from 2016.