By Siphokuhle Mathe (@SiphokuhleMathe)
Less than a week after the statue of the colonial thug Cecil John Rhodes has fallen, Siphokuhle expands on key lessons for the ruling party which include notes on intersectionality, the rise of ‘clever blacks’ and politically active student movement across South Africa’s universities.
The ruling party has many lessons to draw from the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. Rhodes himself may have fallen as an offensive symbol at the University of Cape Town, but the legacy of white supremacy and intersectional oppression are yet to fall. The process of tackling transformation, as it stands, poses a threat that the ruling party must be receptive to. This threat, if met with intellectual and moral bankruptcy, will result in the fall of the ANC regime.
The first lesson is that there is growing intellectualism in the country and the ‘clever blacks’, whatever and whoever they are, are coming to the realisation that there is no space for true progression if the ideological premise is white liberalism. The ANC is sold on white liberalism and for as long as that is so, the pace at which transformation occurs will be slow so much so that there is an arrest of it.
The second lesson is that this transformation agenda is also about gender equality. Pieces of legislature providing for gender quotas and equity are not enough. A women’s league or wing to any organisation does not make a party less patriarchal. This country has been confronted with questions of ‘readiness’ when it comes to women and other systemically vulnerable persons in leadership and all the ‘no’s’ that have met that question were overtly asserting that this country is not ready for transformation. Does the liberation movement want to be caught on the wrong side of history?
The third lesson is that there is an identification that rules and regulations, though meant to maintain law and order, are the very things used to evade accountability. The degeneration of parliament is due to this. Rules are there but tactfully used to create immunity around issues that are contentious and can be better resolved. The throwing of excrement at the Rhodes statue was to simply reaffirm that rules will be broken if the social contract is breached between any authority and the electorate over which it presides. The debates go further in interrogating who sets the rules and, more often than not, the rules are informed by white determinants of order.
The fourth lesson is that university students are not complacent. In their engagements with the university’s vice chancellor and management, students have been determined in ensuring that management listens. This allowed for the leadership of the student body to determine the terms and conditions and rejected the condescending and patronising manner in which management initially wanted to engage students. Given this fact, there is a suspicion that with the socio-political friction widening to corners of this country, very soon ‘the people’ will do the same to the ruling party.
The lessons are countless but they can be read such that all stakeholders of democracy in this country answer for themselves the question of “What’s next?”. The momentum of this struggle was not misplaced or misguided, but it set a precedent for how students and citizens will engage power and the white liberalist regime upon which the ANC is based. The students are simply teaching the country that the future of social justice and transformation is much closer and that the hands which grip white liberalism are getting greasy.