Apartheid in South Africa is still alive and well


Demonstranter i Sydafrika kräver en avgiftsfri utbildning under parollen #Feesmustfall. Aktivisten Farah Davids och Libertas Marina Fransson skriver om hur ojämlik tillgång till utbildning förstärker landets gamla apartheidstrukturer. Foto: Ra’eesa Pather.


Thousands and thousands of people are out toi toi-ing, which is the South African way of protesting that includes singing and dancing, to convey their message: the structural oppression of Apartheid needs to end.


53 percent of the staffs in higher education in todays South Africa are white men. This is a shocking figure since they only make up for 8 percent of the total population. That the oppression is still an ongoing fact becomes ever so clear when looking at the educational system which according to the Freedom charter should be free.


South Africans who toi toi-ed against apartheid over more than 20 years ago were themselves never granted the opportunity of a tertiary education, they instead wore out their bodies so they could afford to send their children to University. Post Apartheid we see a tiny portion of POC graduating with help from the BEE (black economic empowerment) structure, but this does not do justice to the majority of South Africans living in poverty. an increase in tuition fees with up to 11,5 percent by the year of 2016 became the initial trigger point for the movement #Feesmustfall.


A movement that started through the Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg under #WitsFeesMustFall spread through out campuses all over South Africa. And what was initially a reaction against the increase of university fees soon became more. Much more.


In August, this year, the documentary “Luister” in English translates to “Listen” was released and caused a national buzz among students in South Africa. Luister portrays stories of how 32 students and one lecturer experience racism at the renowned Stellenbosch University. One critique in the documentary is the university’s language policy – where most of the education is taught in Afrikaans.


It’s not merely the symbolics of having the colonial-language resonate clearly within the lecture halls of Stellenbosh University that is solely the problem South Africa faces but it is also a way of excluding POC from graduating and entering the university itself since they most likely have only been taught Afrikaans as a second language in High School, the oppressors language as it is considered among many POC and if so certainly not academic Afrikaans. These colonial tendencies in the South African institutions are what the ’Fees must fall’-movement is all about.


The movement is largely lead by strong POC women, where many of them are POC non-binary and POC LGBTQI+ leaders. This phenomena could probably only come in this culture where Africana Womanism is a central idea. The core in Africana Womanism is the practice of self-defining, self-naming and flexibility. This means that the cultural society doesn’t categorize people into a fixed gay- straight or other definite dichotomized identities but rather your identity derives from what you yourselves define you as.


The concrete issues that the Fees must fall movement are confronting is the outsourcing of workers, financial exclusion of students and the increase of fees. But underneath this lies a deeper rooted history of apartheid that refuses to drop its claws from institutional power and structural oppression of POC.


Although the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has agreed upon the demands of a zero percent increase of the university fees, the movement is not pleased. In 1955 the then terrorist, now ruling party ANC adopted the Freedom charter that stated that ”Education shall be free”. It’s now 2015 and education is far from being free nor is equal opportunities given. Several POC graduate high school with flying colors – that is graduating with the highest grade possible – but are still unable to continue on to university studies since they don’t have the financials to do so. They were actually never even given a fair chance since they carry a heavy load of a historic disadvantage which is impossible to catch up as long as the structures of apartheid still lingers on.


Farah Davids

Marina Fransson



Facts and further reading:


African National Congress (ANC) – A social democratic political party. The ruling party of the post-apartheid South Africa. Notable party-leader: Nelson Mandela.


Freedom charter – In 1955 ANC sent out tens of thousands volunteers to gather freedom demands from the South Africans and by June the same year the freedom charter was adopted at a congress. It is characterized by the first line ”The People Shall Govern!” and contains several demands. One is that ”Education shall be free”.


Public Safety Act (1953) – In 1953 the apartheid regime enacted the Public Safety Act which was a response to civil disobedience campaigns by ANC and was an empowerment to the government in declaring a state of emergency and increasing penalties for protesting against or supporting the repeal of law.


Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) – A racially selective program launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving previously disadvantaged groups economic privileges previously not available for them.


Africana womanism – A term coined by the theorist Clenora Hudson-Weems. It distinguish itself from feminism by not being a re-vocalization of western ideas but rather rejects the western colonial system as a whole and instead is grounded in African culture and afrocentrism. Some key characteristic is that africana womanism is family-centered, self-naming and self-defining.


Luister by Dan Corder and Contraband Cape Town https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF3rTBQTQk4.


Ra’eesa Pather – A South African journalist and photographer who has been covering the #FeesMustFall-movement and been a crucial part in contributing to this text with the images of the movement.


Farah Davids – An activist with a double citizenship in both Sweden and South Africa she just got back to Sweden from supporting and documenting #FeesMustFall-movement


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