Thousands of students converge at the University of Cape Town for a meeting about protests against fee hikes in thi. Picture: AFP/ RODGER BOSCH
Thousands of students converge at the University of Cape Town for a meeting about protests against fee hikes last year. Picture: AFP/ RODGER BOSCH

STUDENT Representative Council (SRC) candidates at the University of Cape Town (UCT) say one of their key aims is to challenge the structures that exist at the institution.

Student leaders at the forefront of the protests say an alliance has been formed between self-proclaimed progressive forces.

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Two of the candidate leaders‚ who have aligned themselves with a group calling themselves "ShackvilleTRC"‚ sat down with TMG Digital to answer questions about the fee protests at UCT.

NALEDI MBABA — A 20-year-old second year chemistry student and SRC candidate at UCT from the northern suburbs of Cape Town.

Q: What are some of your challenges in relation to the issues around fees?

A: Well I am funded‚ I fall into part of this so-called "missing middle". I come from a single-headed home‚ you know the typical story.

I can’t afford the fees‚ but fortunately I am bursary funded.

But this fight is not so much about me‚ as opposed to how accessible this place (UCT) is to my other family members and peers.

I am one of the better off family members and I still am not able to afford this place.

It’s so much money‚ my fees for the year come up to about R120‚000 a year.

Yes it includes residence fees too‚ but it’s still so much money and I still have three more years to go.

Q: What are your hopes for the future as a student leader?

A: Ultimately the commodification of education is problematic.

So for me it’s not just about no fees for the poor‚ it’s about no fees for everyone.

To be honest I actually can’t see the future‚ I can only be in this moment right now.

Q: What is your key issue with the system as it stands right now?

A: Even my existence in this space is buying into capitalism.

We want to be well off‚ and there’s been this set template that you get your degree‚ you graduate and you move to the suburbs and that dream has been sold to us really well.

And despite how problematic it is‚ that template is internalised within us.

SINAWO THAMBO — A 20-year-old second year sociology‚ English and politics student and SRC candidate at UCT from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

Q: What are your hopes as a student leader?

A: My hopes as a student leader is that one day‚ the institutions of this country will represent the majority that lives within it.

So even in terms of wealth‚ sustainability and quality of life‚ I hope that one day‚ the majority of this country‚ or people who are black‚ will get justice and their circumstances will be alleviated.

I hope that society will come to a greater realisation that we must move beyond outlooks that seek to pacify us. Like the idea of a rainbow nation or other fairy-tale stories.

We need to face the realities of structural racism and not reduce racism to small personal acts that can happen to anyone‚ it’s actually a structural system that is against black people.

Q: Once you graduate from UCT‚ what then? Will you continue to be an activist?

A: My original aspiration when I came to university was to be a writer so I think I will continue with that.

But political activism will always be a part of my life so I will continue organising communities‚ students and workers outside of university as I am now.

And I will continue to write relevant political theory‚ and pieces relevant to black experience.

Q: What does the fees protest mean to you?

A: To distance myself from the realities of black people who are less fortunate than I am would be to assume that I am better and deserve to be in this position.

For me it is not a question of‚ I want to study‚ get my degree because I can afford it.

The question for me is why are certain people kept away from getting an education?

Everywhere you go in the world as a black person there is a stigma associated with blackness.

There is a certain structuralised and institutionalised approach as to how to treat black people‚ as to how they exist or don’t exist.

TMG Digital