Leading While Black!

“[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

Civility is a register I briefly traded in while the President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at the Welkom Campus of the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT). That was until I woke up to the reality that the world problem with me and my kind was not our lack of respectability but our very existence. My insistence at proper decorum was based on the assumption that if we as student leaders behaved in a polite and reasonable manner, our voices will be heard. I in particular argued that one of the primary reasons we are not taken seriously was because of our approach to issues. This was because a few our comrades had been expelled and we decided to change our approach. However this approach was oblivious at best or ignorant at worst, to the fact that our problem in this world as blacks, is “one of complete captivity from birth to death, and coercion as the starting point of our interaction with the state and with ordinary white citizens.”(Wilderson III: ill-will-editions-2014)

Firstly, we completely missed to recognise that the terrain of civil society, which is the one the University exists in, is inherently, reflective of the logic that undergirds this society; one of racism and anti-Blackness as a precondition for its functionality. Frank Wilderson argues that “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 is not extended to the unwaged (Blacks).”

Our youthful optimism (read naivety), misled us into thinking that serving as an SRC, was an “invitation to participate in hegemony’s gestures of influence”, which by the way was not extended to us as Black students. In addition, we got totally immersed into the “cooperative governance” discourse sold to us by the University. Thereby reckoning that we held capacity to “transform endless time into meaningful event and endless space into nameable place” something [this capacity] destroyed for the Black. This we did, in spite of the fact “the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organised and redistributed according to certain procedures, whose role is to avert its powers and its dangers, to cope with chance events, to evade its ponderous, awesome materiality.” (Foucalt, orders of discourse).

There was no way the unwaged (Blacks) with lack of essential Human capacity, operating within a controlled discourse, could achieve their objectives. This fact corroborated by Audre Lorde’s “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”, became apparent when 21 student leaders were all expelled in a space of 6 months by the University. The expulsions were just a demonstration of anti-Blackness coordinated by all the guns in the world. Further reemphasising that such a precarious situation black children serving as student leaders, found themselves in was unfathomable for white kids. Fighting for access to education, demanding adequate and quality services and treatment is an indictment afflicting only black students as a result of centuries-old, systematic marginalisation and dehumanisation of black people while creating undeserved comfort and privilege for whites. No white kid is forced to study in a small campus: accommodating just over 2000 students, with a tiny library and information centre that opens only during the day, a cafeteria that is the size of a shack, no in-campus housing (residences) and no clinic facilities, simply because they happen to be born in the wrong skin and their like are condemned to perpetual misery (financially and socially) and have to settle for this. It is only reserved for the Black, who are then compelled to “revolt simply because, for many reasons, they cannot breath.” Therefore a white kid after centuries of pillage on the backs of Blacks never gets to “not breathe” and then revolt. However, for us as Black kids, revolting became our only option, for we “could no longer breathe”. Leading eventually to the only logical conclusion awaiting any black person wishing to “breathe”, something exclusively reserved for whites. The disciplinary processes we were subjected to were not impartial and served to legitimise a foregone conclusion as the Vice-Chancellor/Principal had long called us a “marauding gang” of students whose sole purpose is to promote anarchy. And this also affirmed how structurally anti-Black our society is.

Our comrades in the Bloemfontein Campus, who had pleaded guilty to the charges brought against them, were “shot with their arms raised”, reminiscent of Mike Brown, thereby expelled. The “swift” manner the University moved to silence and then destroy our lives was the same as the one the SAPS acted with, in mowing 34 mine workers in Marikana for demanding a better pay. We simply demanded better services and like Andries Tatane we were “killed” in cold blood. Despite our cries that we could not breath as Eric Garner cried, we were choked to death through our expulsions. Amongst us, there are those whose expulsion mirrors the senseless and unprovoked murder of Amadou Diallo. Guilty by resemblance, guilty by being black and student leaders; we are condemned for being born black, in a white man’s world. Our perpetual coercion is a deliberate attempt to have us scale down our demands for the impossible that is to not demand we be recognised as humans, for it will lead to end of the world. We are doomed to social and literal death as blacks and thus our only option is to fight together. It is to as Kiese Laymon recently said to me, “we have to lean on each other and fight.” Therefore, this account of our story is a way to help us lean on each other and fight, because it is our only chance in this world that despises us.

#BringBackOUrGirls: What the abduction of close to 300 schools girls in Nigeria reveal about our African society in general?

“Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women. May my eyes never see and my feet never take me to a society where half the people are held in silence. I hear the roar of woman’s silence. I sense the rumble of their storm and feel the fury of their revolt. I await and hope for the fertile eruption of the revolution through which they will transmit the strength and the rigorous justice issued from their oppressed wounds.”-Thomas Sankara

 

In the wake of the abduction of nearly 300 school girls in the Nigerian City of Chibok, at the state of Bono, in the North Eastern region of the country by an Islamist-styled insurgent group, Boko Haram since 14 April 2014 ; there is has been an international uproar, condemning  the act, that has been widely regarded as tantamount to terrorism. Boko Haram and its actions including the abduction reveal some form of extremism and reluctance to allow modernity and democratic values to become enshrined in the lives of Africans. What however remains striking and disturbing, is the underlying fundamental sexism that is borne out of heteronormative patriarchy. While for advocates of liberal democracy see the abduction of the girls as a threat to Nigeria’s sovereignty and security, including that of the entire West Africa region; the real story behind the abduction reveals the overall status and plight of African women at the hands of a heteronormative patriarchal society. The manner of the abduction of the girls and the treatment they have endured (being held and possibly sold as sexual slaves) under captivity [in fact the threat to sell as them as slaves is reminiscent of pimping women that is a dominant in our societies], notwithstanding the seemingly slow reaction in efforts to try and rescue them, exposes the common trait prevalent in all horror stories of our continent regarding women and their rights. Women are soft targets of extremist attacks and are forever marginalized to the periphery of civil society and the liberal rights it apparently upholds and cherishes.

Women have been common victims of all war crimes perpetuated during civil wars that have and continue to plague our continent. In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s decades-long war over the control of its mineral resources, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has been perpetually used as a weapon of war. Women are vulnerable at the hands of extremists that do not have any respect for human life, especially at the backdrop of them advancing their narrow and selfish agendas. Study published in 2011 in the American Journal of Public Health estimated that as of 2009 some 1.92 million Congolese women had been raped at some point in their lifetime; 462,293 had been raped in the previous year.

 

Closer to home, a woman by the name of Khwezi, laid charges of rape against the then former Deputy President and now current President of Republic of South Africa Jacob Zuma in 2006; notwithstanding the right to a fair trial guaranteed by the country’s constitution, the woman was subjected to all sorts of abuse by the all and sundry. The failure of the country to have empathy and indeed sympathy to the alleged victim of a rape, in a country with devastating rape statistics (an average of 3 600 rapes day, 500 000 per year and only 1 in 9 rape cases reported), dealt a huge blow to the rights and security of women. The Jacob Zuma rape trial served as a catalyst in how the country has been dealing with the perception of rape and the scourge of rape. Despite the eventual acquittal of the accused, the abuse the accuser was subjected to throughout the trial underpinned the minimal rights and respect of women or lack thereof in a country gripped by the plague of rape and gender-based violence (60 % of males and 50% of males between the age of13 and 24 believe it is acceptable for husbands to beat their wives under certain circumstances).

 

Essentially, while we join millions all over the world in calling for safe return of the close to 300 Nigerian schools girls who are victims of a sick political battle between Islam Fundamentalists and the predominantly Christian government of Nigeria, what remains evident is the degradation of women generally in the eyes of a very sexist, heteronormative and patriarchal African society. That Boko Haram would specifically target women is not a microcosm of Islamic fundamentalism only but that of general culture of patriarchal politics in the entire African continent. Thus this calls for what in the words of Jessica Horn, is “the consideration of what actions can be taken to reverse the rise of close-minded, discriminatory, anti-democratic thinking dressed in the language of religion and [culture].” Meaning the Chobik calamity is an exposition of the overall failings of the entire continent in  its effort to be economically, politically and socially secure region.

 

As Jessica Horn correctly quoted the Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka in a recent interview, “our generation of Africans needs to start taking greater action to [respond to those who think they have a divine right to mess up our lives]. Stopping the spread of religious fundamentalisms does not require military action. It requires the persistent public reaffirmation of critical thinking and debate, a separation of religion from state policy and law-making, strengthening progressive social movements, and the bravery to stand up in defence of the marginalised in our societies. It also requires us to be more assertive in our defence of women’s rights.”

 

A nation can rise no higher than its women.”-Minister Louis Farrakhan

Is the EFF the product of the logical conclusion of the ANCYL?

 

 

Writing in 1948, exactly 28 years before the 1976 June 16 uprising, Isaac Bangani Tabata made a telling observation on the existence of the youth wing of the oldest liberation movement (the African National Congress), an observation that arguably found absolute manifestation on the eve of the ANC’s 102nd year of existence, through the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), ironically, by the former ANCYL’s national leadership and its constituency. Unbeknown to many and perhaps then dismissed as some form of sensationalism from Tabata, informed by his own cynicism; Tabata said in his letter to Nelson Mandela (the recently departed statesman of the Republic of South Africa), that “Politically, it [Youth League] does not belong to the Congress. It is one of those peculiar anomalies which arise in a political situation where there is lack of crystal clarity in political thinking. If the Youth League followed its political principles to their logical conclusion, it would land itself outside the fold of Congress.” This he justified further by saying: “In fact, the African National Congress is rooted, in the past, whereas the Youth League is the product of modem conditions with a modern outlook. That is the essential difference between them.” For Tabata, it was not a case of the two simply having different approaches, in fact it was precisely because of the political reality and interests the two organisations served objectively. After all, Tabata had argued that the formation of the ANC had only been progressive insofar as keeping up with the times only and given the make-up of the political situation at the time [breaking up with the tribalist outlook the resistance and struggle for liberation had taken so far] than actually with its objective to transform the political and material existence of the African people, something crystallized in the Youth League’s 1949 Programme of Action.

For years now, different leaders of the YL have objected to Tabata’s assertions, citing his lack of comprehensive understanding that the YL was and is the product of the ANC and serves as a “brain station” of the latter, not its political foe or equal. They base their argument on the fact that it was the ANC that took the resolution and indeed the step to form the YL, not the other way round. Of course forgetting that Tabata had earlier argued that what defines an organization’s the raison d’etre is not what “the members say or think about an organisation that matters. It is not even a question of the good intentions of the leaders. What is of paramount importance is the programme and principles of the organisations. It is not the subjective good-will of the leaders that matters, but the objective functions of the organisation, what effect it has on society.” And these basic facts premised his argument. For him of course, these facts proved that YL and ANC were not of the same kinship.

It is then with the above that one is compelled to argue the case that the expulsion of the ANCYL leadership elected in 2011 at its 24 National Conference and the subsequent disintegration of its structures, was as a result of the “Youth League following its political principles to their logical conclusion, therefore landing itself outside the fold of Congress.” Since its unbanning and release of some of its leaders from Robben Island, the ANC has sought of backtracked on its initial stance that:

  • The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;
  • The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;
  • All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people;

The above, coupled with the facts that South Africa has the third highest unemployment rate in the world for people between the ages of 15 to 24, an overwhelming 50% of that age group, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk report. This is in addition to about 4.5 million young people in the same age group, that  are neither in any form of schooling and/or education and training.” Required the ANCYL in 2011 to resolve that:

o   To reaffirm the ANC Youth League 1st National General Council resolution on nationalisation of mines, this should be appended to the consolidated resolutions as a Congress resolution.

o   To adopt the economic transformation perspective as encapsulated in the discussion document “A clarion call to Economic Freedom Fighters: Programme of Action for Economic Freedom in our Lifetime”, as an official programme of the ANC Youth League until all the identified objectives are attained.

This is in contrast to the ANC’s 53rd National Conference Resolutions:

  •  Transform the structure of the economy through industrialisation, broad-based black economic empowerment, strengthening and expanding the role of the state and the role of state owned enterprises.
  • Accelerating shared economic growth by overcoming obstacles to growth and intervening to promote equity.
  • Macroeconomic policies that support growth, job creation and poverty eradication on a sustainable basis.
  • The national infrastructure plan, which is an opportunity to change the structure of the economy.
  • State intervention with a focus on beneficiation for industrialisation is urgently required. Instruments are required to support beneficiation and competitive pricing of these strategic resources include the use of targeted management of exports of minerals. In addition, SA’s share of some resources offers possible producer power which could be used to facilitate backward and forward mineral economic linkages.
  • At the forefront of state intervention should be the strengthening of the state mining company which will capture a share of mineral resource rents and equity.
  • The state must capture an equitable share of mineral resource rents through the tax system and deploy them in the interests of long-term economic growth, development and transformation.
  • The New Growth Path is the economic strategy designed to shift the trajectory of economic development, including through identified drivers of job creation.

It can be argued by those within ANC that this is a skewed and very selective reading of the YL’s position; and also by those outside it, especially those in PAC and to a certain extent, AZAPO, that the economic transformation of the ANCYL (and now EFF) is neither socialist nor has a socialist intent, instead it is just a ploy for state capitalism that will perpetuate the same crimes perpetuated first by colonialism and apartheid and now by the ANC-led government through its protection of white monopoly capital and non-disturbance of the economic production make-up of the country. They argue that, nationalization as Frantz Fanon had noted over a half-century ago; “does not mean placing the whole economy at the service of the nation and deciding to satisfy the needs of the nation. For them, nationalization does not mean governing the state with regard to the new social relations whose growth it has been decided to encourage.” That to the YL (now EFF), “nationalization quite simply means the transfer into native hands of those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period.” More recently, NUMSA lamented at EFF’s nationalization as not being “workerist”, meaning not nationalization under workers’ control.  

However, to not digress fundamentally from the premise of the article, the argument is not necessarily on the socialist intent or inherent make-up of the EFF, but to qualify Tabata’s assertion that the YL not politically belonging to the ANC, thus the formation of the EFF. The claim is affirmed by the EFF’s cardinal pillars which state that:

v  Expropriation of South Africa’s land without compensation for equal redistribution in use.

v   Nationalisation of mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy, without compensation.

v  The benefits of nationalising strategic sectors of the economy will include, but not be limited to, the following realities:

a. An increased fiscus for, and therefore more resources for, education, housing, healthcare, infrastructure development, safety and security and sustainable livelihoods for our people.

b. More jobs for our people because state-owned and controlled mines will increase the local beneficiation and industrialisation of mineral resources. This will, in turn, reduce the high levels of poverty consequent of joblessness.

c. More equitable spatial development because state-owned and controlled mines will invest in areas where mining is happening.

d. Better salaries and working conditions in mines because state-owned mines will increase the mining wage and improve compliance with occupational health and safety standards.

e. Greater levels of economic and political sovereignty, as the state will be in control and ownership of strategic sectors of the economy, which produce mineral resources needed around the world.

Something the ANCYL had already advocated for towards it 24th National Congress:

  •       Nationalisation to increase the State’s fiscal capacity and better the working conditions,
  •        Nationalisation as a basis for industrialisation,
  •       Nationalisation as a means to safeguard sovereignty,
  •       Nationalisation as a basis to transform accumulation path in the South African economy, and
  •       Nationalisation to transform South Africa’s unequal spatial development patterns.
  •       State Mining Company to:

■Own and control South Africa’s mineral resources;

■Maximise the nation’s economic gain from the mineral resources;

■Contribute to South Africa’s social and economic development

It is with the aforementioned facts that one may conclude that the formation of the EFF is by far and large, the result of the ANCYL following its political principles to their logical conclusion, therefore landing itself outside the fold of Congress.

Letter To Fezile Sonkwane.

Dear Fezile Sonkwane,

I write this letter at the backdrop of your own letter to the Central University of Technology, Free State, Vice-Chancellor Prof Thandwa Mthembu. Allow me from the onset to make it clear that my own letter does not serve to be a counter to your congratulatory one to the VC.
To make sure that I am not misunderstood on the last point, let me be the first to reiterate the undisputable facts you mentioned:

1. Six brand new state-of-the-art buildings and facilities were erected in order create a conducive learning environment for all. Namely the Academic Support Centre, massive improvements of the ZR Mahabane and Dirk Coetzee Buildings, Teacher Education Buildings at both campuses of the CUT.
2. Some R108 million was allocated to students in need of financial aid in the form of NSFAS in 2012 alone. The CUT Council increased student bursaries and scholarships from R13.1 million to R14.1 million for 2013.
3. Formation of the Stars of Academic Excellence and Research (SOAR) programme as an “in-house grow-your-own-timber strategy”. It has brought on board a stream of highly qualified talent onto our academic and research corps. This programme has managed to register 4 PhD, 12 Master’s, 2 Diploma, and 2 Certificate students.
4. CUT adopted the Vision 2020 concept which in turn has seen the formation of a) the Free State IT Hub that is meant to turn the Free State into an IT hub in software development b) A new International Office c) the Schools Advancement Academy etc.
5. In 2012, PhD holders increased from 58 to 70, and Masters-holders increased from 88 to 104. At the end of 2012, 23% of teaching/research staff held PhD degrees, while the percentage of academics with Master’s degrees was 36%.
6. CUT has also seen the introduction of new academic programmes such as a) Higher certificate in Renewable Energy Technologies b) Advanced Diploma in Agricultural Extension c) Diploma in Studio Art d) Bachelor in Radiography etc.

All the above is true and should be attributed to the leadership provided by the incumbent. And it is further true that under the surface of these laudable achievements there lay innumerate problems plaguing our university; hence we face academic and financial exclusion of our students’ year in, year out. However as already mentioned, this letter is not a counter to your complimentary one.

Now that we have dealt with the obvious, allow me then to shift my focus to the devious innuendos your letter sought to advance insidiously. I wish to expose that behind your somewhat sycophantic praise of the VC, lies your own agenda to continue your delusions of grandeur and constant refusal to accept the outcomes of the democratic processes that took place last year on the 28th August 2013, that declared your erstwhile Comrade, David Makhoali, representing SASCO, as the SRC President of the CUT Bloemfontein Campus. Your insidious agenda needs to be exposed for what it really is and student activism and the students ought to be defended by any means necessary. And to do this (advance your treacherous agenda) Fezile, you go short of declaring an obituary on student activism “In fact, I have long been convinced that the state of student formations in our country has somewhat degenerated and many, if not all, of the student formations have now become a shadow of their former self and as a result are either found deficient or sinking altogether.”. Surprisingly Fez, you seek to convince us that you have LONG BEEN AWARE of the slow decline of student activism a little less than 2 years when you were the Chairperson of the SASCO CUT Bloemfontein Branch and subsequently its deployee in the SRC Academic Office. Furthermore Fez, you lament at what you see as “Student fanaticism from modern-day student leaders that seems to have lost meaning and degenerated only to be used as a buzz word and a label for some cool politico.” I am not certain whether the use of fanaticism instead of activism is/was a deliberate or was a genuine oversight from your part; however what remains an eyesore to me, is how absolved are you as part of these “modern-day” student leaders? Has the rejection that the students of CUT inflicted upon you by electing someone else as their choice of representative elevated you to be an arm-chair critic of their preferred choice?

Fezile, you make an indictment on the degeneration of student activism and go on to express the “melancholic” state it has left you, yet you do not substantiate this claim. You simply make reference of the expulsion and reasons or lack thereof, of the #CUT12 as a major premise of your claim. You have not demonstrated how this “student fanaticism” has seemed to have lost meaning except being a buzz word for some cool politico (whatever that means). This failure on your part to substantiate and demonstrate your point, proves that your veiled attacks at “student fanaticism” is actually an attack on those the student masses elected last August. This is proven by your outrages claim “This sad reality is further deepened by how feebly modern-day student formations run their affairs.”, because Fezile, just over a year ago before your expulsion, you were a member of one of these feebly-run student formations. This is further compounded by your failure to show exactly what are these “gutter politics” that you see to have engulfed our student milieu.

Fezile, if we are to believe all your lamentations in spite of the shabby evidence or lack thereof, it would then mean that your election as both Chairperson of a SASCO Branch and the SRC Academic Officer were as a result of the “gutter politics” engulfing our student milieu, that you are by and large, a product of a degenerated student activism and fanaticism that has become a buzz word for some cool politico. The degeneration has to account for your absurd commentary on both FB that you had the right to speak on a national radio as a leader of a coalition you led and that why it is justified that the 12 CUT student leaders ought to be expelled, because they have “failed”, not because they are guilty of contravening the rules. The gutter politics should account why you saw fit to publicly pass on judgement over the performance of student leadership you neither elected nor mandated.

Fezile, you and I served in the SRC 2012/13 and simultaneously led an intervention on the unfair assessment writing BMR 20 and 30CB students were compelled to write despite the University not actualizing its promises and dignifying our agreement. We both sit here, knowing that our intervention contravened set rules and regulations, yet we were not labelled as marauding gang of students, despite our intervention not being peaceful too. It is disingenuous of you to sit wherever you are sitting, as a HEAD OF A COALITION THAT LOST ELECTIONS, to speak of “gutter politics” engulfing our student milieu and the “degeneration” of student formations, when you too, over a year ago, did exactly, what they did this year, which is halt whatever processes that were taking place because their grievances had not be properly and satisfactorily handled. Fezile, Mr Head of a Coalition do not dare sacrifice our hard-earned right for student activism and governance that came as a result of genuine sacrifice and political action, at the altar of patronage and self-glorification.

Behind your deceitful attacks lies the depoliticisation of student governance and activism agenda. Current student leaders are all in agreement that, student activism has struggled to readapt itself over the changing HE landscape and that it should continuously reassess and find ways to remain relevant in the current context, no matter how obscure it is. However the January protests were not as a result of the problems with student activism but as a result of the paralysis of relations between student leadership and the University. You’d know well, as one student leader reminded you that, at the heart of students’ frustrations lies a bureaucratic system and indifferent students’ services administration, that has seen numerous student leadership submissions at CUT, remain relegated to the periphery. How many times has the student body converged to amend its constitution and we are yet to see a fully consolidated and functional SRC Constitution? Do you know about the shuttle service especially for the Welkom Campus that has continued to be ignored? Despite lack of residences at that Campus and numerous reports of student falling victims to crime on their way to and from campus, not to mention the gruesome murder of one of our students in 2009. Students that have not embarked on a massive protest like the one early this year, whom as you claim are part of a “of a diverse and vibrant community of students and staff along with an open dialogue which is a hallmark that has characterised our university since your ascendance of the VC,” would not just one day, after so many years, fall victim to “gutter politics” and “student fanaticism” by choosing to halt registration processes. If indeed since the ascendance of the incumbent, there has been a “culture of open and robust dialogue”, why would the current SRC and the student masses that supported them, decide to embark on the sort of programme that unfolded early this year? Are we then to assume that you see their actions as part of the “political bullies that tried to impeach the VC in 2012?” Should we assume that student activism, whose constituent element is demonstration, and which in itself is an inherent part of the academic community of the University, as part of the “sinister agendas” that seek to oust our very “first young black VC”? Doesn’t the abrupt protest give us a different reading to how we perceive and treat our students? Have you ever stopped to think that if indeed there is a degeneration of the student formations, it is due to a deliberate attempt by the University to code “politics” as terrorism through frustrating, suppression and intimidation of student leadership? After all Fezile, it is under the tenure of the incumbent that we have been told innumerate time that politics are no longer relevant. Perhaps Fezile, since 2012, the University suffers not only from the “hysteria” it has always suffered from with regard to student activism, but also from acute paranoia, thus labels anything that challenges “authority” and its failings, as an agenda to “politically bully” our “first young black VC”.

Fezile, you letter is quite repulsive not least because it lauds the VC for expelling (your words) 12 CUT students, but precisely because it celebrates the ostracizing of 12 young lives for daring to air their frustrations in the only manner they best know how, especially on the face of indifferent university administration over issues that are of significance to them as students. Fezile, it is evident that you neither have a will to contribute nor know on how student activism and governance ought to be like in the 21st Century, post-political apartheid South Africa, in fact, you are simply interested in getting back at those that ousted you from SASCO and subsequently emerged victorious against your coalition at the 2013/14 SRC Elections.

I am tempted to engage you right here right now on what are the weaknesses of our student activism and governance, as well as the trappings the HE system has put in place to not only frustrate but also destroy student activism and the genuine agenda it exists for and seeks to advance. It is however unfortunate that I cannot, simply because you have inadvertently become a bitter young man thus a spokesperson of the class enemies of the strata that is full of the parents of the very same students you are openly attacking under the auspices of daring to be “young, free and opinionated.”. That you hold the right to air your views under no duress is a known and accepted fact, but one that shall not go unchallenged especially when it seeks to buttress the continuous crushing of genuine student voices and their hopes. Incidentally, Fez, this serves as not the only first time that I warn you of the trappings of patronage, especially at the sacrifice of breaking with your own generation, a lesson that many a wise men know very well.

You remain gifted I suppose as we are all born to manifest in the glory of God and I do hope and pray that you soon discard your delusions of grandeur and most importantly, you let go of the bitterness you still hold against SASCO and its members.

Kind regards
Lerato “Che” Lephatsa

Aphasia and Abjection at Student Governance for Black students!!!

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.

EFF decimates the political discourse of SA!!!

“Fascism is to take a worn-out example, is not an external opposite to democracy but has its roots in liberal democracy’s own inner antagonisms.”-Slavoj Zizek

The Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) formation has drawn both envy and admiration within the SA political discourse, and this is due to its founders, its policies and what its standing means for the traditional political formations in the country. We all know how its formation came about but i shall not discuss that here, except deal specifically with the ideological and political questions surounding the EFF. Questions i hope, will assist us not only in measuring the EFF’s potential but changing the entire SA political discourse. At the heart of EFF’s existence, is its 7 non-negotiable pillars, which are themed on what they term Sankarist politics; and its rallying cry is the insistence of the current generation to curve its own destiny, Fanonian-style.

For some of the traditional political formations, the likes of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), Azanian People’s Organization (AZAPO) and Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA) which are largely regarded as the political left of the SA discourse, EFF presents a serious challenge in terms of “appropriating” their politics (whether for better or worse) and this does not only threaten their existences but their relevance as well. While many within the said formations insist that EFF is neither socialist nor leftist, but just  a slightly noisy and militant ANC by-product, some see it as having great potential in upping the intensity of the political langauage of the SA politics of the left, and at the same time making them relevant to ordinary masses of the country. On the flipside of the coin, is the more liberal and conservative right side of the political space in SA, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), whom, by their standing alone, are direct foes of what the EFF purports to stand for. Well, the ANC, due to its adherence to the Freedom Charter, its relations with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), can claim to have leftist leanings, which should dispel the notion that they are on the right side of the SA political discourse. However, what remains visible is the ANC economic policies since it came into power and its consistency in that regard, hence it is largely considered to be anything but leftist.

Ideologically, the tradional leftist organizations consider EFF limited in its articulation and comprehension of radical leftist politics, they argue that despite its “rhetoric”, it borders on the same Freedom Charter aspirations of the ANC. That, its objectives are still centred around the false premise that SA belongs to all those who live in it, not just the indigenous people of SA. On the other hand, the right side of the frame argue that EFF is nothing but an extremist racial group that stands to hamper the gains that the “democracy” has achieved. In between the two-sides of the frame, there are emerging voices which place EFF as SA’s potential, much-loathed ZANU-PF, accusing it as fickle nationalism, that actually serves to benefit, just a handful of the black elites in the country, under the guise of nationalization. Interesting enough, much of the comments come as a result as the leadership of the EFF, not neccesarily, its policies or ideological standpoint; for instance, due to his political views, the EFF, self-styled, Commander-in-Chief, Julius Malema, is largely considered a demagogue and has been compared to a Hitler and a Mugabe, whom, the liberal voices in the country, feel, has modelled sophistry around the plight of the impoverished masses of the people, while he has amassed wealth for himself, during his days as the President of the ANCYL. They argue that, the current socio-economc conditions of the country, almost mirror the same ones that propelled Hitler and the Nazis into power in Germany, therefore the end product is mostly likely to be the same; while the leftist voices argue that the EFF will fall in the same pitfalls many, natioanlist movement all over the world, but specifically, in Africa, have fallen into; the insistence to nationalize the economny and trading sectors, not to place the whole economy at the service of the whole nation and satisfy the needs of the nation, not to govern the state with regard to the new social relations has been decided to encourage but the transfer to the native hands, the unfair advantages apartheid created and 20-year-ANC rule has maintained and perpetuated. And the above cahrges are levelled solely on the leadership make-up of the EFF.

To then, get to the gist of my article, i wish to point out that, given how EFF came into be, a central command team without an eletive congress, founding manifesto without proper organizational make-up and the fact that there is no visible accountability mechanism to oversee the operation of the the entire organization; indeed the EFF does have potential to be just another grotesque version of what it purports to be, like Zizek said “Because the horror of Communism, Stalinism, is not that bad people do bad things — they always do. It’s that good people do horrible things thinking they are doing something great.” However, the charges against EFF from both sections of the left and right frame of SA politics are not as noble as they seem, infact they reflect exactly their ideological commitments with regard to the SA political status quo. Both sides, are actually merely protecting their territories and standing, which the EFF seems to have appropriated. Both refuse to acknowledge that the EFF emergence has come as a result of their own failures, the left’s inability to attract and mobilize the impoverished masses of the people and the right’s further marginalization and drift away from the masses. The SA political discourse has always been dominated by comfortable politics, the lamentation of the corruption within the government and how the government fails to consistently apply the Constitution, which by the way, sustains the apartheid legacy of inequality and ill-gotten wealth.  One of the EFF’s leading figures, Andile Mngxitama once argued that the EFF decimates the left, and here i argue that it actually decimates the entire political discourse of SA, for better or worse. It is a direct product of failed political discourse in an apparent democracy, whether it goes on to be just another form of Stalinism or in fact, the first ever political movement to be thoroughly Sankarist.

As it stands, the only real worry with the EFF is its organizational capacity, the ability to organizationally overcome possible and imminent power struggles post the national elections next year; it goes without saying that, despite its attractive nature to ordinary folks, it remains susceptible to the “stalinist” takeover same way many historical liberation movements have been taken over. Truth is, every organization is bound to be plagued by internal power struggles and its eventual destiny is always shaped by the faction that emerges victorius within the organization and EFF is not different; therefore observations on it should be be solely on the potential it holds and option it gives the disenfranchised people of SA. The insistence to single out Julius Malema, actually exposes the shallowness of the political formations within the political discourse.

Afterall is said and done, EFF is a product on the prevailing conditions in the country, therefore exists through its mantra, better expressed by Frantz Fanon “Each generation, must out of relative obscurity, find its mission, fulfill it or betray it.” and find it they have, what’s left is fulfilling or betraying it.

The NDP, Angie Motshekga and Blade Nzimande’s Secret Convenant!!!

“Youths are passed through schools that don’t teach then forced to search for jobs that don’t exist and finally left stranded in the street to stare at the glamorous lives advertised around them.” – Huey P Newton

Given that the South African Government’s National Development Plan assertion to “improve” Education, Training and Innovation because they are central to the long-term development of the country and core elements in eliminating poverty, reducing inequality and foundations of a equal society; it brings for a curious and to a large extent, a dim view on the starking dichotomy between its theory and actual practice. For a government that insists that “eduaction empowers people to define their identity, take control of their lives, raise healthy families, take part confidently in developing a just society and play an effective role in the politics and governance of their communities”, its actions on the very same education are appalling at worst.

 

Currently, the SA tertiary education sector is market-orientated, its primary objective is to produce people fit to feed the employment(labour?) needs of both the public and private sectors. And having further argued that higher education, at the backdrop of our history(and its sustained legacy), provides opportunities for social mobility which most often that not determines one’s access to equity, social justice and democracy. It is with the above-mentioned government’s assertions, that the sham the basic education system is, boggles the mind. It flies past even the most intelligent’s minds why would a government that insists on quality education through excellence in science ad technology, through foundational skills in areas such as mathematics, science, language, arts and ethics, neglect and maladminister the most essential phase of our education system, the basic one.

Is it incidental perhaps, the lowering of standards at high school level which contrasts the earlier assertions of quality assurance and the introduction of mathematical literacy at the expense of pure maths (not as its complimentary cousin) or is government deliberatley buffering the one area where equity and social justice are attainable in order to redress past injustices as well as usher in a new paradigm for the country? Lowering high school standards compromises access to higher education, which ironically, the government sees as a major stepping stone for social mobility but a sure access to equity, social justice and democracy.

The SA economic system is capitalist and its cardinal focus is maximazing of profit and  growth of economy at all costs, through cheap and exploited labour. The education system serves to provide the system with a few “needed” high-level skills graduates and the rest(majority) will be provided by the semi-skilled sector of the population at a low cost. It is therefore, not in the best interests of the government which serves capital first and foremost, to practically implement and stay true to promises it makes in theory. In specific socialist political terms, the government’s own promises stiil do not speak directly to the fundmental questions facing our society, however their partial implementation would still defeat its main objective of enhancing inequality andstrengthening of capital at the expense of the majority of its citizens. 

For the SA government to thrive, they have to sustain the status quo, the two-tier education system, where private education remains the priority and bedrock of the country’s economic “prosperity” and the traditional and historically advantaged, white universities like Stellenbosch, UCT, Rhodes, Wits etc. remains the core producers of these “high-level” skilled graduates, where formal employment is guaranteed and social mobility and its benefits of equity, social justice and democracy; while the rest of historically, disadvantaged black universities and universities of technology struggle thereby providing a large cohort of the less-skilled graduates with just a minimal access to social mobility and its fruits.

 

Development remains the rallying cry and justification for the maintainance of the status quo, the urge to be a 1st world country through neo liberal policies such as the GEAR strategy now evolved to the NDP while the poor gets poorer and rich are on high-gear. Is it then justifiable that development comes at the expense of a majority of the people who have always been marginalized and compromised without their consent? That education and a series of other rhetorics are used to fool the masses into thinking that there is a plan and they are part of that plan to transofm positively their own lives?

The envisaged vision where there is collective responsibilty and belonging, can only happen once the needs of the people are prioritized and education is not used as an elevation to birth-right priviliges like social justice, equity and democracy. Education in an unequal society is just another tool to perpetuate whatever crime inflicted agianst the masses; it is therefore for this reasons that education should not just be free, but both compulsory and communal, something which is not in the priority list of the government, let alone their minds and hearts.