I understand that violence as a method of protesting is probably the fastest way for drastic change. Violent gestures like the ones we have come to witness in the #FeesMustFall campaign promote fear and fear is the easiest scheme to get people to listen as well as gaining power over the public. History gives us many examples of dictators and autocracies that used fear as their scheme of governance: Joseph Stalin during the Russian Revolution of 1917, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, politically Marxist-Leninists, who led the communistic Cuban Revolution until 1959. “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” And “I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun and keeps on shooting.” Both said by Guevara himself, imply force accompanied by violence as a way for the public to follow the new regime.
I understand the reasons behind #FeesMustFall, as education fees are substantially higher compared to other countries. With the economy depleting and the poverty population of South Africa increasing, it would make sense for a basic right such as education to be more affordable. But this goes both ways, because of the economy depleting, rates and taxes will rise as the Rand gets weaker. As for the government to keep subsidising most of the costs for all the universities, they will ask for a fee increase. This is the government’s orders, not the universities’ orders.
But the universities get the backlash for it. The destruction of classrooms; the protests disturbing lectures, putting students’ lives in peril; the total vandalism of many institutions that are just following protocol, not setting them. It is rather selfish, because not everyone agrees with the revolution and they have to suffer the consequences of failing their exams for 2016.
Throughout the times of human history, there were so many non-violent protests that made their mark. Mahatma Gandhi on his Salt March, Martin Luther King Jr. during his “I have a dream” speech on Lincoln’s memorial, during the Depression, blue-collar American workers would sit down in order to stand up for their rights, African Americans would sit on the public bus in times of severe racist-prone societies to prove a point of equality. John Lennon of the Beatles and Yoko Ono would add in their two cents worth of protesting against the Vietnam War by singing songs in bed. Nelson Mandela lived in a prison for 27 years. Women would start their own sports leagues promoting gender equality. None of these acts of protesting were violent, erratic, sabotage, or even murderous yet they were all very effective. Yes, they may have taken a longer time frame to complete their task, but once a non-violent protest is finished, another does not follow, whereas with violent protests, they never really end. For example #FeesMustFall started as an obstruction towards the increase in annual fees, the government granted that request, now the protest continues on but has shifted on a similar topic of free tertiary education for citizens. It doesn’t end.
Protest if what you believe in feels right to you and your community; don’t cause any collateral damage, don’t cause any damage. Rather leave a legacy behind that inspires peace. Violence never solved anything but more retaliation. Stand up for what you want, but do not be reckless and harm everything in your path so that people will listen.