In a world over determined by laws and policies, that exits to control the very subjects which are not even at a liberty to participate in their drafting, let alone their questioning; it becomes necessary in its truest political sense, that one challenges not just their legitimacy but participation in the game they govern, actually legitimizes their unjust nature on the very subjects they govern. And in this instance, my point of focus will be on student activism which is exaggerated by student governance in the educational discourse of South Africa. I wish to tackle whether, given its(SA) history of racism and its insistence to suppress and exclude blacks in particular; how can student governance which exists in a terrain that is presupposed to give access to social mobility and its by-products of equity, social justice and democracy, be used as a political platform to advance the political plight of black students whom this education is supposed to assist and whether it is even possible, for it to advance it,
In 1972, at the University of the North, Turfloop, Onkgopotse Tiro’s graduation speech, which emphatically stressed this point “the challenge to every Black graduate in this country lies in the fact that the guilt of all wrongful actions in South Africa, restriction without trial, repugnant legislation, expulsions from schools, rests on all those who do not actively dissociate themselves from and work for the eradication of the system breeding such evils. To those who wholeheartedly support the policy of apartheid I say: Do you think that the White minority can willingly commit political suicide by creating numerous states which might turn out to be hostile in the future? We Black graduates, by virtue of our age and academic standing are being called upon to bear greater responsibilities in the liberation of our people. Our so-called leaders have become the bolts of the same machine which is crushing us as a nation. We have to go back to them and educate them. Times are changing and we should change with them.” Served as a sign of intent or at best, a purveyor, of the type of political language black students in the country ought to adopt and advance. If SASO’ formation a few years before then had done little to portray the intent and the urgency thereof, for black students to code their own politics, the speech made it obvious of what was to be done if ever, black people were to get liberated from the clutches of white supremacy.
“[T]he world has more than one way of keeping you a nigger, has evolved more than one way of skinning the cat…”–James Baldwin, No Name in the Street
The apartheid system has gone down in history, as the most, blatant expose of how the world actually sees and treats black people. It is the only time, post slavery, where white people have shown openly, just what being black means. Its condemnation was as a results of how “backward” it seemed, in the continual oppression of blacks. To the rest of the ‘civlized’ white world, there were better ways of maintaining the status quo, without going so extreme in appearance. Democracy, provide this chance, for whites to remain at the very top of the world, with blacks existing on the outside margins of this world, but at the same carrying the burden of making it functional. It is largely argued that the essential capacity of the Human– such as the capacity to ‘transform endless time into meaningful event and endless space into nameable place’– is destroyed for the black. And that there is no space for the “Black” subject because s/he is, indeed, an object constructed out of multiple modes of historical and contemporary violence. While civil society can argue that, end of slavery, colonialism and now apartheid, has actually ensured enumerate liberties for the black; their claims are dealt a harsh blow by Frank B. Wilderson “Civil society is not a terrain intended for the Black subject. It is coded as waged and wages are White. Civil society is the terrain where hegemony is produced, contested, mapped. And the invitation to participate in hegemony’s gestures of influence, leadership, and consent is not extended to the unwaged. We live in the world, but exist outside of civil society.” Politically, blacks are not recognized within the jurisprudential discourse, which actually reinforces the political discourse of any given society, and as a result, civil society remains an integral part of whatever political discourse prevailing.
To then come to the question of student activism, expressed in student governance, which is also an aspect of civil society; can a tool in the overall armory of anti-blackness, be used to liberate and exaggerate the political reality and code the political language of black students? The higher education sector is full of institutionally autonomous Universities and Colleges, and this autonomy is layered by laws that entrench the political discourse of the government and the country. However, the autonomy is there to safeguard “academic freedom” of all Universities and Colleges, but this is cosmetic, because they are all bound by the country’s constitution, which is the total safeguard of the political discourse governing the country. The inestimable atrocities black students suffer in Universities and Colleges, as a result of policies like Financial and Academic Exclusions, despite the known historical implications of apartheid and their continuity in a democratic dispensation, also serve as witness to just how impossible it is to wage the plight of black students. The student governance structures, which are subject to University and Colleges policies, tailored along the jurisprudential discourse of the government, that sustains the political reality of blacks, are therefore inept, to advance any sort of political strides, needed by black students because they do not exist to advance them.