It’s important that those who struggle against perceived injustice start imagining how they will live afterwards, writes Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.
A story is told of a village that was once beset by the worst drought in living memory.
In their collective wisdom, they decided to climb their holy mountain to ask their deity to intervene and bring rain.
Everyone in the village went up the mountain and they all chanted the sacred songs and prayers for rain. But only one child took an umbrella.
I see this in the phenomenon known as the “Fallist” movement. The name comes from the campaign that something or someone must fall.
I get the sense that most of the energy is spent on dealing with the present problem without adequately preparing for life after the problem has been solved, as if they do not believe their campaign will bear fruit.
I have not heard what those behind the Zuma Must Fall think must happen thereafter.
I must declare up front that I am not against the Fallist movement as such. I am for a lot of things falling, including the statue of Cecil John Rhodes. His positive contribution to society pales into insignificance when compared with its cost to human life, particularly the human dignity of black people.
I have written before that it would be like celebrating Italian fascist Benito Mussolini, because under his rule not even the Mafia could operate in Italy, or Hitler, for the rapid industrialisation and progress Germany made under his watch.
I do not, however, support the call for Afrikaans to fall. Nothing can be gained by making everyone poorer because the majority are poor.
It is for the students at the University of Zululand, for example, to agitate for degrees to be available in IsiZulu or in Venda; to ask why it is that 22 years since a dispensation that said all languages are equal, they cannot study for a degree in their own tongue.
It is not the fault of Afrikaans-speaking people that they had a government that had the political will to develop the language and that those with indigenous African languages do not have the same will.
I do not agree that every protest however legitimate must be accompanied by violence and wanton destruction of property.
Proponents of the Fallist movement routinely dismiss those of us who do not buy wholeheartedly into their strategy of suffering from “politics of respectability”.
They say we value being respected by those who benefit from the status quo more than we are committed to change. They add that those of us who are black and in their estimation, elite, do so to become acceptable to whites; to become that native who is invited to the dinner party to help explain why “they” behave like they do.
Frankly, this is a cop-out and “ahistorical” argument by the Fallists. For starters, who declared respectability a “white thing”?
I accept that there are many instances when black people’s struggle for justice was hampered by those blacks who thought they, as new Christian converts and educated natives, should be exempted from other injustices such as not being allowed to vote or to drink “the white man’s alcohol”.
My sense of those who waged the struggle before us was that they always imagined life after the last fire had been put out.
My two biggest problems with the Fallist movement are its obsession with using whiteness as the standard to NOT live by, and secondly, not doing or saying enough about the kind of society they envision when they finally win. The Fallist cannot and should not be a perpetual movement.
They must ask themselves what happens the day after the unpopular councillor, the unpopular school principal, fees or even Zuma falls.
They must ask themselves whether they would have any energy left to rebuild after what they wanted to see fall has fallen and more importantly what it is they would want to see rise.
It is important that those who wage the struggle against perceived injustices, whether at universities or in communities, start imagining the day after their gripes have been resolved and start living as if they are already there.
We only need to look to our recent past to see how struggles hinged on being opposed to something, but not necessarily pro another thing, end up.
There is an anecdotal acceptance by many of those who were of age during the period that student successes of 1976 left many black communities with the scars of young people who believed that being anti-establishment was a natural order of life, which in turn succeeded where apartheid had failed to destroy the fabric of black urban life.
The spate of so-called service delivery protests, where communities torch amenities and property owned by council and councillors, comes from a time when we valorised destruction of anything that had a government name on it.
Those who wage struggles for a better tomorrow owe it to themselves to demonstrate the confidence they have in their course.
The struggle for a better society must be a struggle of hope in the future, not just despair of the present.
The Fallist must take a raincoat or umbrella to the next prayer meeting, unless they do not believe in their own dreams.
* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is the editor of The Mercury. Follow him on Twitter @fikelelom