Archive | October, 2015

SA’s 2015 Fierce Student Resistance Rewards Anti-Apartheid Student Struggles  By Cheryl Roberts

21 Oct

student protest in cape town. photo by omar badshaSouth Africa’s documented student resistance, struggles and battles this year is a little just reward for the student generations before generation 2015. Oppressed learners and students were on the front line of anti-apartheid battle throughout the 70’s and 80’s. And just when opinion seemingly thought that students were an elitist bloc, intent on their personal gratification, the student consciousness consciousness exploded in challenge.

The fierce and courageous student protests have not let up throughout 2015. And now the exhorbitant cost of student fees has been too much to bear and students are protesting against the fee increases.

Most parents and may wonder why the students are ‘throwing away their chance to study’. May the parents who struggle to pay for student costs and feel pride for their child being educated, let them be assured that this protest action is not in vain or without purpose. This student resistance is for all formerly oppressed South Africans who yearned to learn but could not finish primary school. This is for the working class parent who struggles in post-apartheid, neo liberal to give their child a tertiary education. This is for the learner at school to know they will have any opportunity to undertake tertiary studies.

It’s not that parents are reactionary. Far from that! Because they fear for their children’s time at university and the costs involved, parents may give advice and opinion which is against resistance and protest.

This generation of young students, most of them not 21 years old, is giving a powerful voice to those who thought they had no voice in post-apartheid South Africa. It is these students who are putting themselves on the front line so that tertiary education is accessible to all South Africans.

This is the thank you being given to oppressed students who challenged the apartheid regime and its repressive army and security and riot police. Students resisting today have taken their power and agency from the brave, innocent and courageous students of 1976, 1980 and 1985 who dared to challenge apartheid education.

We must never under estimate the power of student resistance. It was students who rocked the apartheid regime and its horrendous security apparatus and it is students who are rocking the post-apartheid, neo-liberal South African government and society.

For those of us who have never stopped calling out elite domination of South Africa and have never stopped calling for social justice, we are invigorated by the brave student resistance to contest elite control and accessibility of tertiary education in South Africa.

The struggle to claim and own the society we want is unstoppable. The year 2015 will go down as the student year of inspiration to resist and challenge the elite and neo liberal South Africa.

About two months I was privileged to be in the company of veteran and legendary women anti-apartheid and human rights activists who spoke about women’s contribution to anti-apartheid struggle in SA. I’m mentioning this here because the contribution of parents to student struggles, was recalled.

One of the veteran struggle stalwarts, Mrs Ragmat Jaffer recalled with admiration ‘the collective role of the valiant women of the eighties who left their comfort corners to protest, at great risk, against the injustices perpetrated against us, the then disenfranchised, by the minority ruling party.’

Women involved in struggle and resistance in Cape Town have the ‘honour’ of making the first night court appearance happen in Cape Town. This occurred in 1990 when women staged a protest march against unlawful detentions of learners.

‘In Wynberg, Cape Town where I lived at the time, women readily joined the United Women’s Congress. The whippings and detentions of their school going children triggered their anger. The mothers were determined to do battle, to fight the fight, although dogged by fear of all powerful security police.

Our ongoing journey for a society existing for ‘the people by the people’ has its roots in the struggles engaged a long, long time ago and which continue to inspire and refuel resistance campaigns today.

Advertisements

Memory Recall Of Anti-Apartheid Women Activists Is Priceless By Cheryl Roberts

4 Oct

South Africa’s women in struggle and women’s struggles, much of it undocumented and most of it archived personally in women’s memory, has a pivotal contribution to memory and creating a South African society built on humanity and justice for all people.

When it comes to popularization, writing, honour, recognition and representation, women have sadly been neglected in recall of women’s activism and struggle. This isn’t to say that women’s fights, battles and struggles have not been documented or celebrated and noted; it’s to recognize the many, many gaps which preclude knowledge of the extraordinary, fearless and fierce and often brave roads traveled by women, especially, black, oppressed, working class and rural women in South Africa.

The memory deposits of veteran and legendary women who gave their lives for freedom are overflowing. Sometimes, but not enough, there are opportune moments when we are able to interact with veteran anti-apartheid women and hear them recall the days when they took up the spear and fought for that humane society so that future generations could live in a just South Africa.

Recently, this moment arrived in Cape Town when a book launch event brought fierce and brave women together. The memory and recall was sharp, factual, authentic and honest. Legendary human rights activists Blanche la Guma and Mrs Ragmat Jaffer took time out during the week leading up to the event’s gathering and hand wrote their account of how women challenged oppression and oppressive laws.women's struggle

Recalling the formation of FEDSAW, the Federation of South Africa Women, Blanche La Guma emphasised that ‘the events of the 1980’s was carried on the pillars of the 1950’s. And our very brave women in the 1980’s, with vigour and determination with suffering to themselves and their families, gave that final hard, necessary push, in defeating apartheid’.

Throughout the recall of women’s resistance to oppression, is the brave attitude to resist injustices and oppressive legislation. Blanche La Guma explained how women were catapulted into battle to resist all that threatened to deny women living rights.

‘The then President of South Africa – Johannes, Gehardus Strydom, a National party fascist, who supported the NAZIS in the 2nd world war, wanted to extend theses vicious “PASS LAW” to Black women.

‘At a big meeting of revolt held in Johannesburg in 1953, led by powerful, valiant Lilian Ngoyi and assisted by Helen Joseph, a committee was formed. Members of the committee wet to the Provinces of Natal, Orange Free State and the Cape Province to inform the women, what it would mean if they carried “PASSES”. Fedsaw organizer, Mary Moodley was assigned to the Cape Province and I hosted her at my home during this campaign.

‘On their return to Jo’burg, the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) was born on 4 April 1954. Powerful, determined Lilian Ngoyi was chosen to lead the FEDSAW, with Helen Joseph to assist her with the programme of activism and organising.

Intense campaigning for 2yrs ended in the Great Historical March to the Union Building on 9th August 1956. Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie De Bruyn and Amina Cachalia, led the dignified march carrying the Banner of Protest against the Pass laws. More than 20 000 followed carrying petitions to be handed in at the Union Building and singing freedom songs. The women were fighting for their future to live as decent, civilized human beings in their country – South Africa.

An unsuspecting clerk, took the petitions from them. There was not one official to be seen. They feared these women. The women then, with the same dignity, returned to Jo’burg’.

Women have always been resisting, challenging injustices and fighting for the society they demand. Representation and memory has always favoured the male and men’s contribution to resistance against apartheid, with women mentioned and remembered in less detail and honour.

Veteran struggle stalwart, Mrs Jaffer recalls with admiration ‘the collective role of the valiant women of the eighties who left their comfort corners to protest, at great risk, against the injustices perpetrated against us, the then disenfranchised, by the minority ruling party.’

Women involved in struggle and resistance in Cape Town have the ‘honour’ of making the first night court appearance happen in Cape Town. This occurred in 1990 when women staged a protest march against unlawful detentions of learners.

‘In Wynberg, Cape Town where I lived at the time, women readily joined the United Women’s Congress. The whippings and detentions of their school going children triggered their anger. The mothers were determined to do battle, to fight the fight, although dogged by fear of all powerful security police.

‘The United Women went into action. We visited detainees in prison, attended court appearances of detainees, managed with the co-operation of our Imam to send food to Robben Island on Eid and send food to Robben Island on other religious holidays, gave support to families of detainees, went on marches, man marches facing dogs.

‘One march comes to mind. In 1990, 175 women embarked on a march for the release of some comrades. A large contingent of police arrived, pushed 175 women and strangely one male who had been an interested onlooker, into vans driving at breakneck speed from Loop Street to Caledon Square, elderly women falling about and knocking themselves against the vans.

‘We were fingerprinted, mugshots holding a number, were taken of us. It was a long day. It was past midnight when we came up from the cells, were given dates for appearances and sent home. We were met outside by a cheering crowd. We heard afterwards that we, the women of the eighties set a precedent. It was the first night court to take place.’

Today, the women are ageing, being assisted in walk with walking aids and humans. Their lives of brave and fearless resistance to injustices are still fresh and alive in their hearts and memory. Opportunities to listen to these women are both invaluable and priceless. We can never hear enough of the women who placed their lives on the battle fronts against oppression.

Our ongoing journey for a society existing for ‘the people by the people’ has its roots in the struggles engaged a long, long time ago and which continue to inspire and refuel resistance campaigns today.