By Akhona Matshoba
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 1 of VARSITY News.
For the students who are left to deal with the aftermath of #FEESMUSTFALL in isolation, be it the never-ending court cases, countless appointments with psychologists, the triggering moments from trauma, or the physical bruises. How much is too much to give to a noble cause?
For five years now we have seen student protests taking place at various universities nationwide. From 2016 it became almost a ritual for institutions to swindle students out of their dues and for students to feel the need to retaliate with action.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) President, Asanda Lobelo, acknowledges that the student’s traditional way of retaliation is no longer effective. Saying that, “the shutdown is no longer effective because the respondents, be it the university or the state, have figured out ways to demobilise the people.” Going further to say that, “protests need to take a more creative shape in doing what a shutdown does without people physically doing that”.
Not too long ago, news broke of the death of Mlungisi Madonsela, a student at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Madonsela was allegedly shot by campus security during a #FEESMUSTFALL related protest and later passed away due to what was alleged to be because of lack of medical attention. Bonginkosi Khanyile, also a DUT student, was recently sentenced to three years of house arrest for his participation in the #FEESMUSTFALL protests.
These are just the cases that have flooded the mainstream media, but what about those students who still suffer from the trauma, taking countless pills daily just to keep going? Who is there for that one student who, after years since participating in protest action must still appear in court only for dates to be postponed to the next, never finding closure?
Gone are the masses that ‘gassed’ you up, gone are the songs that once kept you going, gone are the smiles that made you feel a part of something – the noble cause much greater than yourself.
How informed are you as the ‘mass’ when you decide to pledge allegiance to this noble cause? How prepared are you to die for it? At what point are you allowed to protect yourself and support such a cause from the sidelines?
The SRC president also believes that leaders in any space have the responsibility to inform the ‘protesters’ of the dangers of participating in such actions, going on to say that, this should not be done out of “fearmongering”, but to alert the “masses”. “People need to be made aware so that they are personally responsible for their own safety”, says Lobelo.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with believing in something so much that you are prepared to die for it; no one can know what Mlungisi felt or believed during his last sacred moments on this earth. But how many of us have walked into such situations ignorant to what was coming next?
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