Fees Must Fall activists won't be 'derailed'

By Carlo Petersen Time of article published Sep 5, 2016

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A GROUP of student activists known as “fallists” have taken issue with the Fees Commission hearings being held this week.

The purpose of the commission is being questioned by students, who feel the commission has a bureaucratic agenda and is not focused on free 

President Jacob Zuma set up the commission after student protests last year resulted in the government deciding against increasing fees in 2016.

Fees Must Fall activist Mohammed Jameel Abdulla said the students had been protesting against the rising cost of tuition, yet the commission’s purpose was only to assess the “feasibility” of free education.

“For students the question was never whether free education is possible, but rather in what guise a system of free education should be implemented and what exactly the path towards realising it is.”

He said the feeling among most student activists who played pivotal roles in protests last year was that the commission was set up for “things that happen on paper” and to derail student movements.

Abdulla said progressive academics have argued that the official ministerial task team, which was set up parallel to the Fees Commission to advise Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande on a way forward, was made up entirely of economists.

“This raises questions about the legitimacy of the commission, as this task team is advising Nzimande prior to findings from the commission being put forward.

“It also leads us to the 
question of how those who are directly affected by fees are not included in the decision-making process that determines it?”

Earlier this year the Fees Must Fall (FMF) collective slammed Nzimande for using “Machiavellian tactics” to delay a FMF summit the students held from June 22 to 25, saying: “To speak plainly, we are disappointed by the clandestine and desperate actions of the minister and a small group in the higher education sector.”

Nzimande’s spokesperson, Khaye Nkwanyana, said: “Unlike the elected office-bearers of the umbrella body, South African Union of Students, and of Student Representative Councils from across the country with whom the minister engaged last week as part of his ongoing meetings and discussions with all higher education and training stakeholders, the FMF collective remains amorphous and anonymous. It has been elected by nobody, it is reluctant to identify its leadership, and it makes it very difficult to understand what exactly it is and who exactly it speaks for.”

Yesterday, the Fees Commission was disrupted and Abdulla said more protests and disruptions are expected throughout the week.

He said student activists’ main concern was the choice of student representatives at the event – Kgotsi Chikane, son of apartheid activist Frank Chikane, and Markus Trengrove, son of advocate Wim Trengove, who is a prominent member of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s legal team. “The concern is the student representatives have portrayed themselves to be pro-ANC.”

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