Soweto's Heirs on Campus
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the “youth bulge” demographic will rock countries around the world.
Just what does it take to launch the largest student protests in South Africa since the end of apartheid? Tuition hikes, of course.
Earlier this month, fed-up university students took to the streets of Johannesburg and Cape Town to protest tuition increases of 10 to 12 percent. They occupied university buildings and dodged police and stun guns. Ten to 12 percent might not sound like a lot, but protesters argued such hikes would squeeze out Black students, mostly, and widen racial inequality in a country that already features one of the world’s highest youth unemployment rates. On the 10th day of protests — yesterday — as students chanted anti-apartheid songs from the early ’90s and invoked the 1976 Soweto uprising, South African President Jacob Zuma relented and said that the tuition hikes would be canceled. Victory? At least for now. This wasn’t 2015’s first university protest and it may well not be the last.
Check out OZY’s coverage of other South African provocateurs who are out to change the status quo.
Political darling–turned–bad-boy rabble-rouser Julius Malema is nothing if not controversial: Today he’s demanding much more than a tuition freeze and pushing for a radical economic transformation. Think land appropriation à la Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (i.e., taking land owned by whites and giving it to Blacks and so-called coloreds). As it stands now, white South Africans account for around 10 percent of the population but own around 80 percent of the land. Malema got his start in the ranks of the ruling African National Congress’ youth wing, but was kicked out on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He has founded his own political party, self-described as a “radical and militant economic emancipation movement.” Read more here.
Sibusiso Innocent Zikode, or S’bu Zikode, as he’s known, couldn’t afford college in South Africa even though his test scores would have sent him in that direction. He’s the founder of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a mass movement for “people who live in shacks.” It’s not a niche movement — nearly 7 million South Africans live in informal settlements with less-than-stellar living conditions. Zikode is helping the little guys fight corrupt politicians, evictions and police brutality. The job isn’t without its scares — his house was burned down and Amnesty International gave him temporary housing — but he’s still fighting. Read more here.
Mandla Mandela is the grandson of Nelson Mandela, and, unlike Zikode and Malema, a stalwart of Madiba’s African National Congress. In this interview, Mandela says a vote for the ANC is a vote for democracy and those who died fighting for it. Even though the ANC is on the outs in some quarters, Mandela argues that the party has done much good since the end of apartheid, including increasing access to electricity and drinkable water. But his personal brand of politics is more theater than kissing babies — he is the head of the Mandela International Film Festival. Read more here.