#Rhodesmustfall and #feesmustfall movements were characterized by an unusual shape and unexpected faces in the crowd of protesters. The questions here are about the organisational structure and the type of people along the line of nationalities and race.
These social movements seemed particularly spontaneous, without a specific or particular structure. There wasn’t really a leader or there were too many leaders. These movements had a reticular and unclear structure which made it difficult for university authorities to act as seen in court orders obtained against more that 12 groupings and individuals (e.g.: Rhodes must fall, #feesmustfall, #outsourcing must fall, left students movement, UCT transcollective, SRC, SASCO, PASMA, Patriarchy must fall, EFF students, in addition to specific students or person) understood to be contributing in the protest throughout the country. But who were the presidents of #Rhodesmustfall and #feesmustfall? Who were their spokespersons? The answer is: no one in particular. That even created an issue with articulating the demand of the movement. Organised student leadership had to catch up and seemed to be a sort of an articulated echo box to the loud noise coming from the crowds. This is not to say that their influence was not noticeable, but to emphasize that they didn’t really plan for that.
The demands were simple in their expression but very complex in their articulation: 1- Rhodes and what he represented that was symbolized by his statute had to fall; 2- Tuition fees should not increase in 2016. #Rhodesmustfall was all about the transformation of South African society since the end of Apartheid; while #feesmustfall riding on that momentum made their demand suggesting that the slow pace of economic transformation was placing an unbearable strain on the youth, which came in one accord against higher education economic policy relaxation. Various movements in addition to many non-aligned students and sympathizers flowed into these basic, heartfelt and all across board demand.
The faces of the protest were emotionally affecting. When the crowd of protesters walked from Wits University, a beautiful young woman, newly elected president of the SRC, led marches; in Cape Town when the crowed went to parliament white students formed a human shield and the move succeeded in taming police vigour against protesters; in the crowd there were many foreign (non-South African) student who genuinely and dynamically partook in the action; also, there were many other people who were not students at all but felt that this was also their fight; and even so some divergent elements who were not there in support of any cause joined the action. This is not to point at particular people but to show the symbolic of young women contributing in the building of the future of the country; to show a kind of unity of sentiment bestowed by the studentship beyond social positional origin, country of origin, or academic status (student or not); and to emphasize that not everyone in the crowd was there for the cause.
Another element of these protests was the remarkable use of social media in organising actions with schedule of protest, main messages, and tips to avoid violence; informing the studentship with spontaneous citizen journalism offering live reports with pictures and videos on the actions; raising resources like transport, beverages, and food; and trying to influence public opinion via impromptu online forums or discussions.
In summary, #Rhodesandhisfeesmustfall showed that there is a young South Africa that demands a faster pace of economic transformation in the country, and now they know their power.
NB: This is a personal take on the social movements #Rhodesmustfall and #feesmustfall, and it does not reflect or support or repress the views of any party but the author’s.