Student activist and #FeesMustFall leader Mcebo Dlamini addressed students outside Parliament, pleading for amnesty for those who have been sentenced and those who are still to face trial for the fees march. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - The dream and aspiration to use a bar of Lux instead of Geisha bars is what gave birth to what is today known as #FeesMustFall.

#FeesMustFall activist and former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini said he could not sit back and watch “the injustice of our brothers and sisters being forced to go back to poverty”.

They had grown up walking 2km to 3km to get to school, not having proper study materials and overall studying in adverse conditions but made it and got into university only to have to go back to a life of poverty because of being financially excluded from university Dlamini explained.

“My uncle always told us that if we wanted to wash with Lux we had to study and go to university, and that is what we aspired to. We could see he had the financial means to live a better life and we wanted to elevate ourselves and we grew up with that understanding that university is the only way,” he said.

The activist and father of two grew up always wanting to be an advocate, focusing on the bill of rights and the Constitution.

This was fuelled by having watched a cousin who “was a successful lawyer who drove nice cars and had everything he wanted”.

“I am still focused on that dream because I want to touch lives and I believe that through my work as an activist, I will be able to do just that. I might represent you too one day,” added Dlamini.

He had grown up in a house full of relatives and friends, they were always up to 10 people in the house, he said. “Sometimes people would come and we were told that they had to live with us because they were related somehow this taught me to share and feel the pain and agony of others. I felt the pain of others and there was no way I was going to ignore it,” he said.

Dlamini, born in Swaziland, was raised by an uncle who was an MK soldier and a mother who was a PAC soldier.

Although he got conscientised by the poverty which he witnessed around him in Mpumalanga, he admits that his home life had contributed to his interest in activism and politics.

He is now facing charges of malicious damage to property, theft, possession of a dangerous weapon and public violence, which led to his arrest in 2016.

This stems from the violence that broke out during the #FeesMustFall violence at Wits University.

The vocal and staunch fighter, along with other #FeesMustFall activists, is determined to fight for the release of imprisoned students and for amnesty for himself. He may face a seven-year jail sentence.

Other activists involved in court cases as a result of the 2015 #FeesMustFall protests which engulfed the country also face punishment.

Dlamini, 30, is known to be one of the leaders of the 2015 #FeesMustFall protests which have led to him and over 500 other students being charged with criminal offences. However, this has not deterred the post-graduate LLB student, who also has a BSc degree.

“If the government heeds our pleas to pardon all #FeesMustFall activists, or grant us amnesty, I must say the future for me looks bright in the legal fraternity,” he said.

Dlamini stands firm in his belief that black students are being targeted and victimised by the government system to “keep them in poverty”.

Standing outside the Parliament earlier this week, Dlamini told students to free themselves of political affiliation and be independent thinkers.

“There is no reason for young people to march here today. As young people, we have an obligation to change the status quo and challenge and put questions on the table and shape the discourse. It is us who must determine the line of march and what is discussed in this House (Parliament),” he said.

He also told Weekend Argus that if the government failed to “be reasonable with us and find an amicable solution then we will have no choice but to use other means to get them to listen to us because right now we are using reasonable, polite and amicable ways to find solutions to this problem”.

“But there is no turning back; if we can’t resolve this in the boardroom; we will resolve it in the bush,” he said.

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Weekend Argus