Many were skeptical to join the recent university student action against fee increases in South Africa. It’s a known yet relatively unpublished fact that annual fee protests especially at a university level are linked to Student Representative Council (SRC) elections and masks political party agendas. In essence, previous protests yielded marginal impacts with no long-term solutions. It is unclear how this protest action #FeesMustFall galvanized to holding leaders accountable, it is certainly is in the right direction and has the full support of Anti-Corruption International (ACI). It has united the youth, in particular students at a university level across the country.
Ever since the advent of democracy, the majority of youth in the country have been apolitical or have been unable to hold leaders to account. The 21st October 2015 certainly marks a turning point in South Africa’s modern day democracy and history. Irrespective of political interests or affiliation students correctly directed protest action to the root cause of moral decay in our country – corrupt leaders and a state which is failing the vast majority of South Africans. While the primary aim of the protest action is a zero percent fee increase, the youth need to build on the momentum of the recent anti-corruption march with a broader societal goal in mind i.e. holding leaders to account, fighting or addressing corruption so that resources can be redirected not just to universities but across the sectors that tax revenue is meant to support. For too long there has been a silence and acceptance of corruption. Some reports state that corruption has cost the country R700 billion over a twenty year period, this was undoubtedly enough to have funded health facilities, build infrastructure and even educate thousands of university students.
While protest action is now correctly directed, it is yet to be seen if students will bow down to their political affiliations and if protest action will move beyond trending #FeesMustFall to #DownWithCorruption which would definitely assist with funding higher education and perhaps lead to necessary action in the rest of Africa.
What is however concerning is that South Africa presently lacks the leadership, wisdom and foresight of the ‘Mandela generation’ and critical to this revolution being effectively achieved and maintaining our democracy is having the correct type of leaders who are moral and dignified and who will effectively lead demonstrations in a non-racial and peaceful manner. Should the protest end at a zero percent increase and not address the root cause i.e. corruption, not much will be achieved especially in the long-term and South Africa will continue to be on the brink of a revolution with minimal long-term gain especially in the education sector.
Written by: Shakira Choonara