#FeesMustFall: Letter from a Burning October in South Africa

By  Lenin Tinashe Chisaira (@LeninChisaira)

I saw slogans quickly radicalising from #FeesMustFall to #ZumaMustFall and I realised that the burning up of the systems that had been strangling the students and the entire societies where they come from, in Mzansi and beyond, was beginning to burn up in earnest like the coal fields of Mpumalanga

On a Wednesday night in October 2015, I walked into Wits University main campus in Johannesburg to show support for students who were in the midst of a protest against fees increments.

Lenin T. Chisaira

On the preceding Sunday, I had travelled all theway from some meetings with mining communities in Zvishavane and had flown in the evening to South Africa, ready for an activist organisation’s Conference and AGM on Mining Community issues and poverty.

It was great that I was in Jorburg, but my greatest interest was in the realisation that a few suburbs away from our meeting and staying place, South Africa was beginning to burn. The students at Wits University had risen in arms against a proposed 10,5% fee increment on Wednesday 14 October 2015, exactly a week before my        visit to the campus.

(From L to R) Blessing Vava, Vuyani Pambo( EFF Students Command,Wits University) and the author Tinashe Chisaira at Wits University


They were quickly followed by fellow students from the Universities of Pretoria, Rhodes, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Western Cape, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan, Fort Hare, Tshwane University of Technology and University of KwaZulu-Natal.

So on one of the conference days, I sneaked out at night on this Wednesday 21 October 2015, and got in touch with fellow friends and comrades from our student activism and leadership days, Blessing Vava, and we went to the University of the Witwatersrand.

The night was also on the day students in Cape Town stormed Parliament building and the greatest economy in Africa was nearly brought to a revolutionary standstill.

The level of organisation of the students was admirable. Food was being served for all from a catering team that consisted of students from various political parties and student formations. The diversity of the political t-shirts was awesome.

We bumped into the student leaders and had chars with them, especially with former SRC President Mcebo Dhlamini, who got suspended some months ago over Hitler. We also saw the current ladies who lead the union and a whole lot of other enthusiastic and purposeful students who had gathered for a protest vigil in the Senate House.

A large banner proclaimed that the Senate House itself had been taken over by the students and had been renamed Solomon Mahlangu House, in remembrance of the hero of the South African liberation struggle and member of the Umkhonto weSizwe who was hanged by the apartheid regime in 1979 at the very tender age of 23.

It was obvious as we stood in the hall that the lives and aspirations and hopes of the students themselves were on the firing line, like their hero Solomon Mahlangu.

The mainstream media had proclaimed that the protests were very violent and when I told a few people that I was never going to fly back to Zimbabwe without giving my solidarity to the students at Wits, I was told by one that there was no way any car would take me there because the students were stoning cars. But I went there and no cars were stoned.

However it was apparent that South Africa was burning.

Red Octobers

The Fees Must Fall Campaign, renamed the #FeesWillFall is an idea whose time has come not just for Mzansi but also for Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. And when it comes to Zimbabwe, the campaign must never be limited to tuition fees, but to a myriad of other political and economic ills, levies, regulations, utterances rates and bribe charges.

The Fees Must Fall campaigns must also be welcomed in Zambia, where on an innocent Sunday 18th October, a hapless government forced a nation into praying for the economy.

The Octobers I know have proved to be more than hot months, in history and in the present times. Exactly ninety-eight years ago, the greatest event in the 20th century history of humanity took place in Russia in the form of the Russian revolution, the Great October Socialist revolution.

The Octobers are also the months we remember the great lives of men and women of character like Samora Machel (murdered on 19 October 1986), Thomas Sankara (murdered on 15 October 1987) and Che Guevara (murdered 9 October 1967).

This is an October where years ago, Zimbabwean students embarked on a first ever mass action against the then young Zanu PF government. The same October in 2015 has seen an even worse onslaught and naked thuggery against vendors and the destruction of poor people’s houses. Many running battles were still being fought in the city between vendors and the police in the days I left Harare.

And this is still the October, where the student protest I attended in South Africa has become more interesting. I saw slogans quickly radicalising from #FeesMustFall to #ZumaMustFall and I realised that the burning up of the systems that had been strangling the students and the entire societies where they come from, in Mzansi and beyond, was beginning to burn up in earnest like the coal fields of Mpumalanga.

Without giving prescriptions, I can say my experience from the University of the Witwatersrand and from following up on the news from the other South African universities, highlight that for a brighter Southern Africa and our world’s future, the world needs less youths with swag, but young men and women of character like the students who continue to stand up for what they believe.

Aluta Continua

[Lenin Tinashe Chisaira is a former student leader in Zimbabwe and a writer at AfricaFightNow.org! This article was first published: 23 October 2015 on Nehanda Radio . Re-posted by AfricaFightNow.org! with the author’s permission]


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