The keynote address was given by Prof. Tinyiko Maluleke, the advisor to UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof. Cheryl de la Rey. The panel discussion consisted of Roanne Moodley, a member of Uprising, Mosibudi “Rassie” Rasethaba, the 2015 SRC president, and Thabo Shingange, the 2016 SRC acting president. Apart from the predominantly student audience, Prof. Vasu Reddy, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, and UP lecturers were in attendance. The panel was facilitated by Quraysha Ismail-Sooliman, who Prof. Reddy described as a “student-led moderator”.
Prof. Maluleke addressed the topic of Fees Must Fall on a national scale instead of focusing on UP specifically because he considers himself a new addition to UP, describing himself as a “participation observer” who wished to make claims “with caution and with care”.
He reiterated the harsh realities of the higher education landscape with the support of statistics from the last three years, particularly those surrounding black students and black people. Of the 17 500 academic staff in higher educational institutions, 53% are white and 55% are male. He also mentioned how historically black institutions are marginalised by having the least resources and having to maintain largely poor students. Lastly, he spoke about the what he called the government’s “sporadic and reactive interventions” to the movements, which are attempts at appeasing students.
The discussion then moved on to the student panel, starting with Moodley who thought that to progress with transformation, a deeper inquiry must be made into the protester’s concerns. She emphasised the “need for dialogue” and urged students to recognise the role of language, the concept of protest, and what students are protesting against.
Rasethaba believes that South Africans are not living in a true democracy but under a “neo-colonial system that is not run by monarchs but by multinational corporations, bankers and western powers.” He proposed that in order to move beyond Fees Must Fall, the transformation and decolonisation of universities and their curriculums, Africa itself must be decolonised. He also called for the fallist movement to develop one dominant guiding ideology. However, he trusts that with “open dialogue, honesty and willingness to learn from each other”, the movement can achieve what those who came before it failed to accomplish. He concluded by saying that “if the fallist movement cannot speak to the gogo in Giyani, the girl in Kuruman, the miner in Marikana, it is a useless movement and is not concerned with the true liberation of our people.”
The last speaker, Shingange, who was speaking in his own capacity and not on the SRC’s behalf, touched on how movements such as Rhodes Must Fall and Open Stellenbosch “raised uncomfortable questions in society [that] needed meaningful answers”.
He emphasised that movements such as Afrikaans Must Fall are not attacks on white people but part of a fight for transformation within UP. He also called for students to “debate meaningfully”. He said that in order for the curriculum to be decolonised, institutions of higher learning would need to be “Africanised” to discover “what it means to be Africans in Africa”.
Dr Fraser McNeill, an anthropology lecturer at UP, asked the panel where they see decolonisation of the curriculum in a global context. Rasethaba’s response was that it can only occur when Africans are self-determined, know who they are, and have ownership of power, their land and wealth. Prof. Maluleke said that in order to achieve the curriculum’s decolonisation, they would need to “come to an agreement about its necessity and that no one can “have a conversation as sceptics”. Noxolo Mabona, a third-year BSc Mathematics student, criticised student leadership for their failure to prioritise the LGBTI community. The panel as a whole ultimately agreed that the hierarchy of struggles needs to be dismantled for a unified progression of the movement to occur.