Politics

6 Moments That Prove the Spirit of '76 is Still Alive in South Africa

For Youth Day we look back at six moments that show the spirit of 1976 is still alive in South Africa.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the June 16 Soweto Uprising, in which tens of thousands of black South African students marched in response to the Apartheid regime’s implementation of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools. Fast forward to 2015, a year of student activism in South Africa in which university students all around the country stood up against the government's proposed 10.5% increase in tertiary education. From the songs, to the now iconic images to the indomitable faces of the movement South African young people disproved the notion of apathy among today's youth. Below, we look back at six moments that show the spirit of 1976 is still alive in South Africa.


Rhodes Must Fall (University of Cape Town, March 2015)

The movement started on 9 March 2015 at the University of Cape Town when student activist Chumani Maxwele threw human excrement on the famed statue of known white supremacist and “architect of apartheid” Cecil John Rhodes. The protests were initially about removing the statue but grew to encompass institutional racism at the university.

“We are fighting for the black experience to matter. The people who commemorated [Cecil John Rhodes] didn’t want people like me on campus” Mbali Matandela, a member of the movement, told The Citizen.

After almost a month of protests, occupations and dialogues, UCT’s senate finally voted to remove the statue on 9 April 2015, which was celebrated on Twitter with the hashtag #RhodesHasFallen, signaling a symbolic victory in the fight against white supremacy and the decolonization of tertiary education.

Umfolozi TVET College Protest (Umfolozi TVET College, June 2015)

On 24 June 2015, students at Umfolozi TVET College in Richards Bay broke out in protest, interrupted classes and called for the SRC to be removed, citing their lack of study material, NSFAS’ ineffectiveness and the general lack of support students get from the institution.

Similar protests had broken out a month earlier at the eSikhaleni campus with students complaining about poor facilities, lack of adequate accommodation and unresolved student loans applications. “The majority of students who study at the college come from poor backgrounds. As a result they flock to the college with the hope of receiving loans for their studies through NSFAS. For the college to turn around and say the funds are exhausted is a fallacy,” Lindokuhle Ndlovu, eSikhaleni College SRC President, said at the time.

As a direct result of the protests uMfolozi TVET College Rector Sam Zungu said a study was conducted by NSFAS to reevaluate the application procedures, and a decision was made that students should start applying directly to NSFAS for funding. There hasn’t been a clear indication of the success of the protests as negotiations are still ongoing.

Open Stellenbosch & the Luister Documentary (Stellenbosch University, July 2015)

In late July 2015 news broke of a group of students breaking into protest inside a lecture hall at Stellenbosch University. The relatively small demonstration emanated from the institutions’ exclusionary language policy (with Afrikaans being the main medium of instruction at the historically Afrikaans institution) and was led by members of what would later become known as the Open Stellenbosch movement.

As a direct result of the protests Radio DJ and filmmaker Dan Corder, in partnership with Cape Town production company Contraband and the Open Stellenbosch movement, made the now infamous Luister documentary. A scathing look at the ongoing racism and discrimination experienced by multiple students on campus, the 32-minute documentary gained country-wide attention resulting in parliament calling an urgent meeting with the university’s management to discuss transformation.

Fees Must Fall (Nationwide, October 2015)

The granddaddy of them all, #FeesMustFall was a student-led protest movement that started in October 2015 in response to the proposed 10.5% increase in fees at all South African tertiary institutions in 2016. The protests, led by outgoing Wits SRC president Shaeera Kalla and incoming president Nompendulo Mkatshwa, started at Wits University but later spread to surrounding universities in Johannesburg, then ultimately every public tertiary institution in South Africa participated in a #NationalShutdown that saw civil disobedience marches and public disturbances take place all over the country.

Kalla and Mkatshwa were instrumental in ultimately leading the movement to a large march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria where President Jacob Zuma met with students leaders and announced a 0% increase in fees for the next few years.

End Outsourcing (Nationwide, October 2015)

The #EndOutsourcing protests were a direct result of #FeesMustFall. The two were protested in tandem when university staff across the country pledged their support for the student protests over what they deemed unfair labour practices. Outsourced workers––cleaners, catering staff, garden services and security guards––are usually paid less because they don’t work directly for the universities and have been struggling to be insourced for over 16 years.

As a result of the #EndOutsourcing protests, Pretoria University, University of Johannesburg, University of the Witwatersrand, UNISA, University of Cape Town and Tshwane University of Technology have all signed agreements to end outsourcing.

Naked Protest (Rhodes University and Wits University, April 2016)

Another direct result of the intersectional nature of #FeesMustFall, the Naked Protest erupted in mid-April 2016 when Rhodes University students protested half naked to stand against the university’s prevailing rape culture. The protests were sparked when an unnamed group published the names of 11 alleged rapists still at large at the university. Demonstrating around the hashtag #RUReferenceList, protesting students demanded that the university review its sexual assault policy and for rape charges to be included in the perpetrators’ academic records.

The Wits SRC joined the protest in solidarity with their own naked protest, lamenting the lack of support for rape victims by university management and the rape culture in general. The protests have sparked nationwide discussion on rape culture in universities.

Thapelo Mosiuoa is a Johannesburg-based copywriter, lifestyle writer and the author of an unfinished book. Follow him on Twitter at @ThapeloMosiuoa.

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Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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Photo illustration by Aaron Leaf.

Zuma Releases Commission Report, Says South Africa Can't Provide Free Higher Education

What does this mean for the #FeesMustFall movement?

South African President Jacob Zuma released the highly anticipated Heher Commission in lieu of recent #FeesMustFall student protests—which says it's not feasible to offer free higher education.

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Courtesy of Universal Music Group.

In Conversation with Daniel Kaluuya and Melina Matsoukas: 'This isn't a Black Bonnie and Clyde film—our stories are singular, they're ours.'

'Queen and Slim' lands in South Africa.

Melina Matsoukas and Daniel Kaluuya are everything their surroundings at the opulent Saxon Hotel are not—down-to-earth and even comedic at times. Despite the harsh lights and cameras constantly in their faces, they joke around and make the space inviting. They're also eager to know and pronounce the names of everyone they meet correctly. "It's Rufaro with an 'R'? Is that how you say it?" Kaluuya asks me as he shakes my hand.

Matsoukas, a two-time Grammy award winning director and Kaluuya, an A-list actor who's starred in massive titles including Black Panther and Get Out, have every reason to be boastful about their achievements and yet instead, they're relatable.

The duo is in South Africa to promote their recent film Queen Slim which is hitting theaters today and follows the eventful lives of a Black couple on the run after killing a police officer. It's a film steeped in complexity and layered themes to do with racism, police brutality and of course Black love.

We caught up with both of them to talk about just what it took from each of them to bring the powerful story to the big screen.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Installation view of Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara © The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2020, photography by Anna-Marie Kellen.

The Met's New Exhibition Celebrates the Rich Artistic History of the Sahel Region

'Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara' is an enxtensive look into the artistic past of the West African region.

West Africa's Sahel region has a long and rich history of artistic expression. In fact, pieces from the area, which spans present-day Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, date all the way back to the first millennium. Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara, a new exhibition showing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, dives into this history to share an expansive introduction to those who might be unfamiliar with the Sahel's artistic traditions.

"The Western Sahel has always been a part of the history of African art that has been especially rich, and one of the things that I wanted to do with this exhibition, that hasn't done before, is show one of the works of visual art...and present them within the framework of the great states that historians have written about that developed in this region," curator Alisa LaGamma tells Okayafrica. She worked with an extensive team of researchers and curators from across the globe, including Yaëlle Biro, to bring the collection of over 200 pieces to one of New York City's most prestigious art institutions.

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