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#FeesMustFall was the Tipping Point of the Youth’s More Radical Grievances – Achille Mbembe

On the PostcolonyOn the Postcolony author Achille Mbembe wrote a Facebook post yesterday on the current student protests, asking: “Is South Africa in a pre-revolutionary moment?”

Reflecting on the events of the past week, where students stormed the hallowed grounds of Parliament, Luthuli House and the Union Buildings to demand that the government listen to their frustrations about university tuition fees, Mbembe writes:

“In this most unequal country on the planet where for the last two decades the ruling party has not been able to decisively bring to an end the centuries-long process of recycling of black poverty, yet another routine increase of tuition fees has proven to be the tipping point.”

Mbembe ponders on the deeper grievances of the youth, which goes beyond the call for free education, and wonders how the protest will end. He writes in conclusion that “openness to the unexpected” should be the rule.

Read the article:

Beyond the tuition fees increase and the call for free education lurk other, even more radical grievances. While delivering their memorandum to the General Secretary of the ANC a few minutes ago, student leaders pointedly argued that the older generation had lied to them – a clear reference to the 1994 dispensation that was supposed to usher a new era of racial equality and freedom, including in the economic sphere.

They remonstrated the ANC, the arrogance of the new rulers, their lack of humility, and vowed to keep the momentum going even if this meant shutting down Johannesburg, Pretoria or Cape Town.

A new spirit of defiance is fast spreading. A commitment to direct action too. Those who wanted to see could see it coming – the RhodesMustFall initiative, the constitution of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Open Stellenbosch, similar enterprises at Wits and Rhodes, and now in slmost every campus.

One could also see it coming, in the extraordinary return to critical black intellectual traditions, to black feminism, queer theory, critical race studies, theories of intersectionality etc. To these currents is now being added a renewed critique of political economy that aims at bringing together, dialectically, questions of race and property, of class and inequality, and of identity and what many call lived experience.

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