ROGUE groups were working to hijack the historic “Fees Must Fall” movement and intimidated students who protested for a zero-percent increase in fees at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
This is according to two students who spoke to BDlive on condition of anonymity. The students said a group calling themselves “Rhodes Must Fall” employed violent tactics during protests and misrepresented the students’ cause.
The unelected group also purported to be the de facto representatives of black students and labelled any black students who did not support them or their tactics as “liberal sell-outs”, the students said.
Students from around the country marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Friday where President Jacob Zuma met with university management and student leaders. After the meeting on Friday it was announced that university fees would not increase next year. The march saw pockets of violence and vandalism.
While the fee freeze was widely hailed, Mr Zuma offered little detail on some of the students’ other demands, including a commitment to free education for all South Africans and an end to the outsourcing of university staff.
One UCT student told BDlive that a distinction had to be made between students who demonstrated peacefully in recent weeks and those who employed violent tactics and tried to “hijack” the movement.
“‘Rhodes Must Fall’ are a self-appointed group of people that are starting riots to move their own agenda. Clarity needs to be made about this matter because people are now thinking every black student that is protesting is part of ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ and this will lead to a negative end,” the student said.
It is understood that this group had assaulted UCT students and intimidated female leaders in the “Fees Must Fall” protest movement. The student said some of the “Rhodes Must Fall” instigators were respondents in the UCT court interdict stopping protests on the university’s campus. The “Rhodes Must Fall” movement leaders also prevented vice-chancellor Max Price from speaking to students this week, he said.
Another student told BDlive that “Fees Must Fall” was started by students with the support of student representative council structures and other interest groups. “Rhodes Must Fall” was attempting to appropriate the movement as their own through intimidation and hyper-masculinity, the student said.
“There are instances where these leaders have intimidated female leaders in meetings with university leadership. Honestly, students are going to protest with whoever is protesting at this point.
“Most of them won’t question what is happening but marches have been disorganised in some instances where students have waited to hear from the vice-chancellor and he is suddenly not given a chance to speak,” the student said.
The student challenged “Rhodes Must Fall” to contest student representative elections and become elected if they believed they represented the interests of students.