Delving into the mental scars of #FMF activists

Students across South Africa embarked on the Fees Must Fall protest four years ago. Thebekile Mrototo looks at how those weeks of protests affected the young people who took part. Bonginkosi Khanyile from the EFF and Thabo Shingange from the SA Union of Students joined him for a discussion. Courtesy #DStv403

DURBAN - Students across South Africa embarked on the Fees Must Fall protest four years ago.

Their demand was free and equal higher education and they've largely managed to achieve that, but has the country actually taken stock of how those weeks of protests affected the young people who took part - some as young as 19.

READ: Activists release Fees Must Fall book

One student activist, Khanya Cekeshe, recently had to be rushed from prison to hospital, for treatment for mental health issues.

The mental scars of the Fees Must Fall Movement are still being carried by the students who participated in the protests.

Bonginkosi Khanyile from the EFF said, "we thought we are going to push the government to deliver free education thereafter we will continue with our lives however, the journey has been so difficult because until today we were still under house arrest. I was under house arrest until I set myself free today in protest for Khanya Cekeshe."

Khanyile, on Friday, said he would no longer be complying with law enforcement's requirements for his sentence of house arrest until Cekeshe's release.

He was convicted on public violence charges, failure to comply with a police instruction, and possession of a dangerous weapon in August last year.

He said, "we cannot comply with a government that has made it its business to suppress young people, to traumatise them, and destroy them."

Khanyile called on young people to take action in order to action Cekeshe's release.

"Tweeting, Facebooking, and Whatsapping don't help. The only thing does listen to is action on the ground," Khanyile stated.

Thabo Shingange from the SA Union of Students said as a union, they have thought deeply on the effect of Fees Must Fall. 

Shingange spoke on Khanyile's action, "I cannot necessarily speak over him in terms of the decisions he has taken himself to unchain himself from house arrest in protest and solidarity with one of his own."

Shingange said while he doesn't regret taking part in the student protests, the scars of the events that took place are devastating.

"Any student who was there in 2015, 2016, 2017 is no longer the same. They've changed, many are bitter, many are angry, and many feel they are in a state of paralysis."

He related the past trauma to current struggles experienced by students, "the universities have not changed, the conditions are still the same. In some instances, the universities have militarised themselves, it's no longer a public university, a public space of academic engagement and intellectuality, it's now walking through a military base. So, of course, you have signs, you have triggers."

As a union, SAUS said they would be creating a platform for a joint approach to appeal to the state and law enforcement for Cekeshe's release and the amnesty for all the FMF activists still facing legal charges.


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