Former deputy chief justice and Wits Chancellor Dikgang Moseneke says the Fees Must Fall protests are legitimate. PICTURED: Dikgang Moseneke
JOHANNESBURG – Former Deputy Chief Justice and Wits Chancellor Dikgang Moseneke said the Fees Must Fall protests are legitimate and echo the 1976 uprising of young people against apartheid education.
Moseneke has just published his memoirs, My Own Liberator.
He said the protests must be understood in the context of ongoing social inequality and frustration with state mismanagement and the improper use of public resources.
As a teenager, Moseneke was sent to jail for ten years.
He used the time to study and to start his journey towards a career in law.
As a new attorney, he defended thousands of young people accused of involvement in the 1976 uprisings.
Not a single one was convicted.
He has written about that time in his recent autobiography.
INTERVIEW: Moseneke on struggle, sacrifice and justice
“Their position was that they had themselves to fight, because their parents appeared to have been subdued by the repression of the 1960s: massive arrest, deaths in detention, people fleeing the country…and these young people were quite determined to have a rolling type of resistance and strangely, the fear for prison had come to nothing, to zero” he said.
Moseneke – in his capacity as Wits Chancellor – said the university negotiated on the issue of free tertiary education, in a bid to articulate a common position at a historic General Assembly.
The claim for access to free, quality education was acknowledged as legitimate.
But the assembly was postponed indefinitely after negotiations broke down.
“Violence is only justified when there are no other means, legitimate, to be able to advance societal transition and change…every other time, discourse and protest – particularly within soft targets like universities – ought to be open, because they are meant to be spaces of openness, of contestation, of free ideas. But none of these should ever get to levels where we are.”
Moseneke’s memoir tells the story of his extraordinary life.
It's also a plea for South Africa to find ways to deal with the massive social inequalities that continue to define life for the disadvantaged or face the consequences.