Sunday, 9 April 2017

Is the EFF Left or Fascist?

See article published in Mail and Guardian:

https://mg.co.za/article/2017-04-04-the-effs-wrecking-ball-politics-is-fascist-rather-than-left

Student politics is extremely fractious and complicated by its populist crowd character. Whoever steps in front leads the crowd. I came face to face with this reality twice over the past few months: first at a peace meeting at WITS hosted  in a  Church during October 2016, which was disrupted by the EFF, and, second, more recently at the Higher Education Convention, co-hosted by the National Education Crisis Forum. Students and workers wanted recognition for their struggles and the Convention was one way to affirm that and ensure the powerful were listening. The Convention ended in an EFF-led brawl and with students turning on each other. Months of organising and preparing an inclusive platform for constituency based policy dialogue was de-stabilised. The alternative to dialogue is too ghastly to contemplate: violent student protest at universities and deepening state-led securitization of university spaces and more broadly societal struggles. Universities will not survive in this context and South Africa’s tenuous democracy will plunge further into crisis.

Student formations are generally extensions of political formations in most instances. This complicates the dynamics within student politics and in #FeesMustFall protests. Who is really leading? The EFF is an interesting example in this regard given its militaristic and hierarchical form of organisation.  For the EFF delegitimising the ANC at all costs means the worse things get the better for them in any social arena. Deepening crisis through disruption is a political strategy. From parliament, to communities and now universities its mode of often violent disruptive engagement is becoming central to its political practice and this is also diffusing as a societal norm. This means the EFF, in the context of the Higher Education Convention, was not willing to rise above its narrow partisan interests and place the interests of the country first. Solutions to take the country forward are not important but rather short term political calculation to upstage the ANC state is all that matters; even in a context in which the main protagonist of social dialogue is not even the ANC state. This is not oppositional politics but a politics of wrecking everything because collective societal solutions don’t matter. It also means this kind of short termism will, intentionally and unintentionally, unleash forces that will also clash with the EFF down the road. It is breeding a politics that will come back to harm it, assuming it is successful in growing in electoral terms.

But perpetual violent disruption, as a mode of politics, also means this is a politics bereft  of an understanding of what is essential for a democracy to work. South Africa’s transformative constitutionalism, like all modern democracies, requires all contending political forces to accept certain rights and procedural standards in the political game. A crucial assumption at work in this political framework is the idea that political difference is acceptable but should not become antagonistic. The EFF does not respect political difference and is antagonistic to all political forces that do not agree with it. It is not just un-South African as some have suggested but is deeply undemocratic.

Competitive political escalation for the EFF means: accept its way or face violence. Does this make the EFF fascist?  Liberal journalists, some academics and even the SACP have declared the EFF fascist.  The notion of fascism is a slippery concept to define. As an appellation it has multiple meanings, both historically and comparatively speaking and this has to be acknowledged. Liberal scholars normally work with a typology of key characteristics to define fascism such as: charismatic leadership, racism, ultra-nationalism, paramilitarism, violence (actual or threatened), anti-parliamentarianism, anti-constitutionalism and anti-semitic.

This is only helpful to a degree, but also runs into analytical problems given that context specific conditions and dynamics shape fascist forces. In the first half of the 20th century it was easy to discern national variations of either Italian fascism or Nazi totalitarianism.  However, today fascism is mutating and manifesting in a complex matrix of material national and global conditions. It has arrived wearing pin stripe suits or sometimes as a suicide bomber. This brings us back to the question: are those wearing red berets under the EFF banner fascists? Is the main contribution the EFF has made to South African politics is merely to draw more taut the line between those for democratic transformation and those against?

The EFF is certainly a contradictory formation and on its current trajectory it is not a visionary nation builder, nor a programmatic force for change, nor a democratic political opposition. While at some moments it looks good in relation to the kleptocratic Jacob Zuma regime, we should not assume that it is better.  The EFF expresses serious ambiguities in its ideological make up: constitutional/anti-constitutional, Marxist-Leninist/stakeholder capitalist, male chauvinist/yet appealing to some women, decolonizing/yet willing to accept support from white capital. The EFF like historical fascism draws its  ideas from across the political spectrum. As a result, what it stands for in terms of values, beliefs and ideology is unclear. It really makes it up as it goes through the theater of national politics, expedient political maneuvering and through its authoritarian populist inventiveness.

The EFF received just over a million votes in the previous national elections. Does this mean those who vote for it believe in its mercurial, shallow and make shift belief system? Are these the citizens who buy into the spectacle of authoritarian populist politics?  An electoral outcome is really difficult to decipher. There are always different degrees of support for any political party. This ranges from hard core support to sympathisers to swing voters. In the last national election the EFF certainly picked up a significant  anti-ANC vote and it also found traction in sections of the black middle class and unemployed poor. Interestingly the EFF could not build on this momentum of national support and win a local government election outright. Instead it emerged from the local government elections as a coalition partner to the neoliberal DA in most big Metros. Moreover, given its disposition to violent disruption and its  inability to provide a way forward on national challenges  it is likely that its electoral support has peaked. The next national election will be very telling and will really be surprising if South Africans vote for a party that merely offers fiery rhetoric, intolerance and violence.

But this still leaves the colour red on EFF t-shirts, berets and paraphernalia. What does this mean? For some the red dimension of EFF identity makes it left, coupled with a militant dose of rhetoric like evoking the big ‘N’ word, ‘Nationalisation’.  Nationalisation has always been about state capitalism nothing more. The EFF has successfully claimed a space to the left of the ANC and has projected itself as a left force picking up on residual anti-establishment sentiment. Yet its performative antics in parliament of representing workers through overalls and hard hats smacks of hypocrisy. While most workers earn under R3000 per month in South Africa, an EFF MP earns over R1million  per annum and over R80 000 per month. It pays to act exploited in the EFF script. However, the EFF should not believe that workers are not watching nor unaware of the social distance. Moreover, the EFF has not united left forces of the working class, the left intelligentsia or more generally left social movements. Neither has it provided a serious analysis of contemporary capitalism to guide its interventions. In fact, the EFF in claiming to be left has actually through its politics undermined the prospects of the left in South Africa. It is contributing to the defeat of the left. The EFF is not a left force by any stretch of the imagination despite its own declarations, the colour red in its identity and simplistic media representations of it as a left party. An EFF in power will certainly not take South Africa to the left. It does not have what it takes and given what’s on offer, an EFF-led South Africa will probably mean most South Africans will think the Zuma days were wonderful.

There is no straight line from Malema, to Trump, to Le Pen and even Al Shabab. The EFF is not fascist in the 20th century sense, but is certainly expressing elements of a 21st century fascism in its role in South African politics. It is pioneering an original fascism in the South African context. As it fights the ANC violently and other progressive social forces, it is also delegitimizing democratic processes and forms of dialogue. However, unlike the ANC the EFF claims to be left but yet it is politically and ideologically certainly not left. Anti-capitalist ideology is meaningless in the EFF understanding of the world and thus it is certainly not a serious left orientated force. The interests it seeks to aggregate are disparate and not representative of the working class as a whole. Its disdain for hard won democratic values, constitutional principles and practices makes it nothing less than an anti-democratic pariah. South Africans need to choose very carefully where they stand when it comes to the EFF. The national dialogue to resolve the Higher Education crisis will continue in coming months, with or without the EFF. In addition, student formations more generally also have to reflect on their commitment to disciplined, inclusive and respectful democratic dialogue to find policy solutions.


Author: Dr. Vishwas Satgar is a WITS academic. He is also a member of the convening committee of the South African University Staff Network, a partner of the National Education Crisis Forum that hosted the Higher Education Convention.

Invite to DM Seminar on Food Sovereignty Theory and Law


Friday, 3 February 2017

Full Statement: Launch of National Education Crisis Forum

STATEMENT OF THE NATIONAL EDUCATION CRISIS FORUM (THE FORUM) DELIVERED BY FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF JUSTICE DIKGANG MOSENEKE AT A PRESS CONFERENCE HELD AT THE NELSON MANDELA FOUNDATION AUDITORIUM, 107 CENTRAL ROAD, HOUGHTON, ON 2 FEBRUARY 2017, AT 14:00 The Chairperson of this Press Conference and Co-Convenor of the National Education Crisis Forum:Mr Sello Hatang; Co-Convenors of the Forum:Ms Santie Botha, Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana and Prof Pitika Ntuli, and – in their absence – Mr Jabu Mabuza, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba,Prof Mary Metcalfe and Mr Jay Naidoo; Partners of the Forum:the Higher Education Parents Dialogue (HEParD) and the South African Universities Staff Network for Transformation (SAUSNeT); The Secretariat of the Forum: Adv. Louisa Zondo and her team; Ladies and Gentlemen of the media; Good afternoon. We gather this afternoon in a press conference, the purpose of which is to: • Presentthe National Education Crisis Forum through yourselves, to South African society; • Convey the objectives of the Forum; • Provide feedback on the work that the Forum has been doing in relation to the higher education crisis facing our country; • To inform about the process towards a national civil society engagement in the form of an education convention; and • Call for South African society to activelyengage with the issue of education and collectively contribute to creating solutions to our education challenges. THE NATIONAL EDUCATION CRISIS FORUM The Forum came into existence in the latter part of 2016. I convened the Forum together with nine (9) Co-Convenors, all of whom are prominent members of South African civil society who have been directly involved with education in South Africa at various levels, and specifically engaged with the current crisis unfolding at universities. REASON FOR THE FORUM’S EXISTENCE South Africa is on the cusp of a systemic crisis in education. The education crisis affects all levels of education in South Africa – from early childhood development through to tertiary education – and reflects a societal problem produced by policy choices made over various epochs in South African history, including the apartheid and post-apartheid eras. The crisis is evident in the perpetuation of inequality, as well as exclusion and marginalisation on various grounds including race, gender, class and a range of othersin which dominance is created and normalised and discrimination is meted out to those who, through such prism of dominance, are considered to constitute “the other”. Violence and instability at universities have become key features of the response to the crisis. Responses to violence are characterised by securocratic approaches. The violence and its effects, tend to mask the deeper fundamental issue of the South African education system – and the related broader societal issues of inequality, poverty and exclusion. These are some of the key messages raised by FeesMustFall and by elected student leaders across all of our campuses. At the core is the call for free, quality, decolonised and decommodified education, which catalyses a more fundamental societal review of inequality, poverty and exclusion. The situation is complex, with differentiated dynamics at each university. The reality, however, is that while South African society needs to contribute to reimagining our education system and to participate in sculpting the system for the education it envisages, resolution of the crisis requires State responsiveness to the vision of education that emerges from civil society. In this regard, we have been in discussion with the State President, his Inter-Ministerial Task Team and the Minister of Higher Educationand have communicated the constructive role we wish to play in contributing to a resolution ofthe current crisis. It is our belief that the cohesion deficit in the various efforts that civil society, across the country, brought to bear on the crisis, needed to be remedied. It was in this context and to this end that – in the latter half of 2016 –theForum came into existence. Together with our partners –HEParD, who were already partnered with the South African Council of Churches at the time when the Forum was constituted and SAUSNeT, who had initiated processes to coordinate the various organising efforts of support and academic staff at universities, around the higher education crisis – we have been able to engage with a wide range of stakeholders. We do not take for granted the centrality of trust in the process of meaningfully engaging the range of stakeholders involved in the education crisis – who very often have limited or no alignment of interests and views. In order to retain and develop trust, the independence of the Forum remains one of its most crucial features. It is for this reason that, the Forum holds very high, the principle of independence in all it does. The Forum is therefore not beholden to any of the stakeholders, but, seeks to ensure that the right to education enshrined in the South African Constitution becomes a lived reality for all by facilitating pathways for the meaningful attainment of this outcome, through engagements with relevant stakeholders who are committed to acting accordingly. The principled basis on which we will take forward this work includes: • Peaceful mediation and resolution of disputeswith all parties refraining from the use of violence; • Zero tolerance of racism and gender discrimination; • Sufficient representation based on constituencies; • Sufficient consensus building through democratic engagement and respect for divergent perspectives; • Disciplined collective action through democratic deliberation and mandated leadership; • Dialogue with state, universities, students and concerned parties. THE FOCUS OF THE FORUM As the 2016 academic year drew to a close in the midst of a delicate reprieve in the cycle of heightened violence, it was clear to all who cared to analyse the situation even on a cursory basis that the crisis and the related instability was not likely to abate. It was also clear that the 2017 registration process was likely to trigger instability unless appropriate attention was given to the immediate issues and processes were initiated to address structural and policy defects in education. The Forum’s terms of reference therefore include: (i) Calling for peace and dialogue and normalising the situation at our universities particularly in the run up to reopening in March 2017; (ii) Facilitating the voice of the range of stakeholders including students, university staff, university authorities and parents; (iii) Convening a national process of conflict resolution and a civil society convention at which stakeholders would secure policy and funding solutions for the medium to long-term; and (iv) Mobilising resources for the Forum’s work. Accordingly, the Forum and its partners set itself a programme of work that sought to: (a) Deepen the Forum’s understanding of the education crisis and the range of ideas in this regard; (b) Engage the various stakeholders in education on their views of the crisis; and (c) Propose the notion of civil society engaging with the education crisis in a national convention. On 3 December 2016 the Forum then held a meeting at which the Convenors and HEParD, exchanged views with Vice-Chancellors on the state of South African education and on possible education funding models, after considering a STATSSA presentation on the state of education and various presentations on possible education funding models. The opportunity was also taken, at this meeting, to engage with the Vice-Chancellors on issues that require immediate attention to facilitate stability in the 2017 academic year. This exchange of views highlighted the constraints faced by Vice-Chancellors in regard to the challenging issues of fee increases, historic debt, as well as internal disciplinary processes and legal action related to protest action, on the one hand. On the other hand, the opportunities available for the deepening of trust and the creation of peace within respective campuses were also highlighted. A broader stakeholder engagement was held on 10 - 11 December 2016 andwas attended by student representatives from the various universities, VCs and representatives of VC’s, HEParD and SAUSNeT representatives, the faith-based community and labour. The participants held engagements on the state of South African education, funding models and a range of issues requiring immediate resolution at respective universities. The immediate issues include: the fee increases in 2017; historic debt; internal disciplinary action against students; and student arrests and criminal cases against students. The impact of these issues on 2017 registration and student access to university education was starkly highlighted. This meeting also confirmed the need for stakeholders to mandate representatives to participate in working groups that would develop the preparatory work towards a Higher Education National Convention on the basis of identified work streams. The Forum and its Partners proceeded to hold engagements with a range of stakeholders including, students, University Vice-Chancellors and Chairs of Council, the Minister of Higher Education, Minister Blade Nzimande and the President of the Republic of South Africa, President Jacob Zuma. At such engagements, the Forum sought: to highlight the nature of the education crisis; to seek fullcontribution of respective role-players in the potential resolution of matters, as well as to inform stakeholders about plans to convene a national civil society engagement on education. The 2017 university fee increases of up to 8%is one of the issues for immediate attention that various stakeholders considered to pose a threat to stability in the 2017 academic year.The Forum made an effort to engage with government on the conversion of the 8% fee increase into an 8% increase in government subsidy. To date, this proposed approachor other related approacheshave not been introduced to address this potential threat to stability in the academic year. Historic debt is another significant challenge in the registration process at various university campuses. Proposals on government underwriting of historic debt have not yet been taken up. At various universities, students who are not allocated NSFAS funding are currently unable to register for the 2017 academic year on account of historic debt. In engagements with Vice-Chancellors and Chairs of Council of various universities, the Forum took note of the significantly challenging financial and legal constraints that confront the leadership of universities in regard to addressing historic debt. In the absence of pronouncements by government on the underwriting of historic debt, respective universities are implementing a range of measures which do not eliminate historic debt as an obstacle to registration. Financial exclusion related to historic debt therefore remains a significant unresolved challenge to the 2017 registration process. The challenges highlighted in the registration process are symptomatic of the deeper crisis. The crisis calls for South African society to understand the nature of the crisis evident in education and to contribute to the co-creation of solutions. THE HIGHER EDUCATION NATIONAL CONVENTION TO BE HELD ON 25 – 26 FEBRUARY 2017 Recognising that the challenges facing the education system as a whole, are a societal problem affecting every citizen, the Forum is calling on civil society to raise its voice on the issue of education. This is being done in a manner that fully recognises the struggles of students and university employees as well as the major challenges of university leadership and seeks to create meaningful consensus on a vision of the desired South African university. The Forum will be sending invitations to a broad range of civil society formations to attend and participate in the envisaged Higher Education Convention. The Forum further invites any other civil society formation even though not directly invited to communicate with it with a view to being invited to the Convention. In preparation for the Higher Education National Convention, therefore, the respective stakeholders are considering various Work Streams with a view to drafting discussion documents which will be distributed in the build-up to the Convention. Over the next few weeks, the Convenors and Forum partners plan to have provincial engagements at which the Work Streams will receive further consideration. Below is a list of the Works Streams and a brief description of some of the critical elements to be addressed. WORK STREAMS 1. Registration The 2017 registration period is already under way at many universities. This requires the immediate resolution of issues affecting the peaceful and effective registration of all students. One of the barriers to entry for students is the cost of registration. For those who are returning students, the issue of historic debt may disallow them to return to complete their studies. The tensions surrounding these issues are heightened by the dichotomy between what the government requires of universities in this context and what the universities say they are legally and financially capable of doing. 2. Funding models It has become apparent that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the public entity that seeks to provide efficient and effective financial aid to poor and working class (missing middle) families through a loan-based scheme, seems to no longer be an effective driver for higher education funding in South Africa. As a result, several funding models have been developed to demonstrate the potential possibility of free, quality education. This work stream, in preparation for the National Convention, focuses on questions of who should be funded, how funding should be achieved, the period in which fee-free education should be attained, the quality of education within a fee-free higher education system, financial administration at universities, implementation of funding models and related issues. 3. Peace and Mediation Framework The 2016 academic year was marred by violent protests, distrust between students and university management and miscommunication between relevant stakeholders. Issues that hinder peace and mediation require immediate resolution to ensure a smooth transition into the 2017 academic year. These include coordinating accused students in disciplinary and criminal proceedings, the securitisation of campuses, and facilitating greater communication to engage with possible solutions and minimise distrust between stakeholders. In order to resolve the higher education crisis, the framework for peace and mediation requires the input of all stakeholders including students, parents, university Councils, Vice Chancellors and staff, and government. 4. Transformation The transition from a racially oppressive past to a democratic society included a negotiated settlement by stakeholders in various sectors, including education. As a result, issues of a fragmented funding system, massification of the system, and decolonising, de-commodifying and Africanising the curriculum in higher education was not resolved. In this context, a framework for the resolution of the higher education crisis must crucially include and address issues of transformation in university structures and systems. This work stream focuses on re-imagining the role of universities in a democratic South Africa. 5. Higher Education Access and Massification Access to higher education goes beyond the ability to access funding. It speaks to access to institutions through differential fees and access requirements, race and class disparities in patterns of access, access to the resources necessary to participate in learning, and patterns of completion rates relating to race and class. The work stream also addresses the “massification” of post-school education in increasing the numbers of the institutions of higher learning, while standardising the quality of education across all institutions. This speaks to the accessibility and capacity of universities nationally. 6. Student Accommodation While the primary focus of funding within universities has been the cost of tuition, students have raised as a concern the need for university accommodation that is conducive to learning. Within this context, there is a miscorrelation between the amount of students enrolled at institutions of higher education and the university facilities available to accommodate these students. This raises further concerns around the security of students in the spaces that accommodate them and the proximity of residences to campuses. 7. Policy and Legislation Amendments Within the context of re-imagining higher education in a democratic South Africa, is the question of regulation. Changes to the post-school system would require legislative and policy amendments to regulate the transition and transformation of the system nationally and within each institution. This work stream identifies the legislative and policy amendments that are required to resolve the higher education crisis in the long and short term. The details of the Convention will be provided continuously in the coming weeks through the Forum‘s website which will be accessible at http://www.necforum.org from 16:00 on Thursday, 2 February 2017. This a therefore a call for South African society to get engaged and prepare to contribute views towards the realisation of a vision of education that contributes to a just and peaceful South Africa free of poverty, inequality and exclusion. Justice Dikgang Moseneke Ms Santie Botha Mr Sello Hatang Mr Jabu Mabuza Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Prof Mary Metcalfe Justice Yvonne Mokgoro Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana Mr Jay Naidoo Prof Pitika Ntuli

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Discussion on the state of the nation and role of citizens. All invited.

Active Citizens Movement (PMB ) Cordially invites you to attend its inaugural workshop. This workshop will seek to establish the ACM purpose & vision in its quest to achieve an active citizenry. In so doing it would seek to hold government to account and promote a developmental strategy to empower and organise communities to best employ their rights which are contained in the Constitution of SA. Date: 21 January 2017 (Sat) Venue: Regal Inn Conference Centre, 47 Alan Paton Drive, Pietermaritzburg. Time: 1pm - 6pm AGENDA Speakers 1) Professor Vishwas Satgar - State of the Nation 2) Judge Thumba Pillay - The role of the Constitution in SA 3) Siva Naidoo: Dbn ACM chair - Role of active citizenry 4) Pacsa community speaker - Day to day struggles 5) Fish Maharaj - ACM Presentation: 6) Four Commisions would be talking to the expert input from the first 4 speakers. the ACM will develop its programme of action from this. Plenary session - 90 minutes 7)The Keynote Speaker Professor Khushta Jack - Save SA - Reclaiming the legacy of people power vs. the politics of power Snacks/supper RSVP: a) Sibusiso Khanyile, sibuk@pacsa.org.za • +27833294554 b) Chris Whyte, chriswhyte@mweb.co. za • +27824158138 c) Babu Baijoo, babu@futurenet.co.za • +27837800504

Saturday, 26 November 2016

#FeesMustFall: the poster child of new forms of struggle in SA?

#FeesMustFall: the poster child for new forms of struggle in South Africa?

Vishwas Satgar, University of the Witwatersrand

During South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, national liberation politics was mass politics. It was grounded in building class and national popular alliances as a basis of a national liberation bloc.

A reading of the strategy and tactics documents of the African National Congress (ANC) confirms the centrality of class agency, particularly that of the working class, while affirming the importance of nonracial unity. The material foundations for this, at least in the 1980s, were mass movements such as trade unions as well as civic, youth and student organisations.

The United Democratic Front (UDF), deemed by some as the “internal wing” of the then still banned ANC, congealed these forces into a bloc of resistance. In this ferment, hierarchical forms of organisation were established. Most importantly, vanguardist leadership played a determining role through the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP). The idea of an elite vanguard, a centralised underground leadership managing a strategic line of command, defined this politics.

The UDF was a mass front for waging a “people’s war” through mass mobilisation. While the UDF had its own democratic grassroots impulses, the Marxist-Leninist imprint and template of this politics was apparent. And, it was not unique to South Africa. The bolshevising of “national liberation” politics or “painting nationalism red” was a feature of 20th century revolutionary politics because of the influence of the Soviet Union.

This is not the politics of the current uprising of South African students, collectively known as #FeesMustFall which has emerged as part of a second cycle of resistance (2007 to the present) in post-apartheid South Africa.

Post-apartheid cycles of resistance

The first cycle against neoliberalisation (late 1990s into early 2000s) was marked by the rise of the Treatment Action Campaign, the Landless People’s Movement and the Anti-Privatisation Forum. These formations are now either moribund or very weak. In the case of the Treatment Action Campaign, there is an attempt at renewal.

Since 2007, South Africa’s civic protest actions against the lack of service delivery have become much more frequent and more violent. It has become the object of analysis of various sociological studies and sometimes vaunted as the “rebellion of the poor” or “violent democracy”.

South Africa has also been witnessing the emergence of new transformative movements that mark out a second cycle of resistance. They include struggles around building solidarity economies (waste pickers building worker cooperatives), the right to know, equal education, social justice and defence of constitutional freedoms. It also includes struggles for food sovereignty, rural democracy and rights for women.

These struggles cover extractivism (particularly challenging pollution and land dispossessions related to mining), climate jobs and housing. They further include fighting for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexed (LGBTI) people, as well as struggles against corruption, moves towards rebuilding a new worker-controlled labour federation and a growing emphasis on climate justice.

These are social forces attempting to advance transformation from below. After the Marikana massacre in 2012 there has been a realignment of political forces. With it has come a detachment from the national liberation bloc of parties like the ANC.

These anti-systemic forces are not led by any vanguards. They are agents of transformative counter-hegemony, opposing the dominant ruling class.

#FeesMustFall’s demands for zero fee increases, decommodified education, an end to outsourcing and decolonisation, is in this second cycle of mass resistance. The anti-capitalist impulses in South African society are amplified by all these forces. Alongside Marikana, #FeesMustFall has brought this to the fore in dramatic ways.

Three new developments

#FeesMustFall heralded three new developments in mass politics in post-apartheid South Africa. First, it married social media to mass politics which did not exist in 1976, for instance. This enabled telescoped, speedy and cross-campus mobilisation. Students used Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp groups and even webpages to communicate with each other. They also married situated mass practices (such as assemblies or occupations or sit ins) to larger political mobilisation. This was new for South Africa.

Second, this political matrix was amorphous, except for moments of media representation which presented “leaders” at the forefront. In practice, this was not the case in the university space. There, various groups jostled for influence. Mass mobilisation was catalysed through social media and common resistance activity, providing moments for mass convergence.

In many ways, #FeesMustFall was leaderless. At the same time, it had a powerful group and populist logic at work. It was a prototype of a grassroots-driven force with a leaning towards horizontality – but this did not fully mature.

At Wits University, for example, deliberative processes did not mature into intense democratic group deliberation as they had done in the US Occupy Movement. This has to do with the nature and orientation of crowd politics coming together in #FeesMustFall and its limits. Instead, final decisions were made through a rather loose assembly format and yes/no procedure around actions (Molefe 2016) and were often driven by particular groups.

This weakness and internal tension of leaderlessness, existing alongside intense contestation between groups for leadership, did not provide much space for debate about strategy and tactics. Ultimately it also fed into divisions within #FeesMustFall.

Third, #FeesMustFall was about copying developments from different campuses, what is known as a mimetic politics. So if students marched and protested at one campus, others followed.

Or, if students occupied particular spaces at a certain university this was repeated at other campuses embracing the revolt. It was a copycat practice that also had a life of its own and reinforced the role of social media and “leaderlessness”. This mass dynamic, however, could have been given greater coherence if #FeesMustFall had moved early on to democratically elect a collective leadership on campuses and nationally. That did not happen, but despite the weakness, the mimetic dynamic gave a critical mass to #FeesMustFall. It gave a capacity for mobilisation which culminated at the South African government’s seat of power, the Union Buildings in Pretoria in October 2015.

#FeesMustFall represents a new populist crowd politics. It brings forth strengths but also weaknesses. Without deeply democratic practices and institutional representation it could easily degenerate. At the same time, it is about a post-apartheid generation evolving a politics of its own. Its aim is to reclaim and transform the public university and challenge the crisis of national liberation politics, alongside other rising movements.

This is an edited version of a chapter from ‘Fees Must Fall; Student Revolt, Decolonisation and Governance in South Africa’ (Wits University Press)

Vishwas Satgar, Associate Professor, Department of International Relations, University of the Witwatersrand

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Invite: Debate on Colonialism & Decolonisation, Tshisimani, Oct1


Speakers: Shamil Jeppie, Zandisiwe Radebe and Vishwas Satgar

A workshop that explores the complexities of colonial rule and its aftermath. What were the main drivers of colonial conquest and imperialist expansion, what differing forms did it take, and how does this history continue to shape present realities? What forms did anti-colonial struggles take and what are the prospects for decolonisation?

#AntiColonialStruggles 
Saturday, October 01 08h30 for 09h00 to 14h30

Kindly RSVP by Wednesday 24 August to: 

Zanele Motsepe
info@tshisimani.org.za
021 685 3516/8
Venue:
Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education
1 Batten Lane
Mowbray, 7705
Cape Town

(next to Forest Hill and opposite the Viljoenhof CPUT residences)