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Reflections on the Higher Education National Convention

By Lindsay Maasdorp

The Higher Education National Convention had barely started when mass disruptions that saw the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) beat up the members of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) after they had disrupted Minister Blade Nzimande from speaking.

This was the second and final disruption, and one which followed a student caucus that agreed that the program would be allowed to go as planned and that all designated speakers would be allowed to speak. The student caucus was held because of the disruption which occurred when Afriforum delegate was invited to speak.

A small group of students objected vehemently to the settle coloniser speaking, noting that Afriforum had continuously worked against the Fees Must Fall struggle and that it represents the maintenance of the this country as a neocolony. How can a white person speak on decolonisation? Can the oppressed and the oppressor dialogue about the oppressed’s liberation?

The caucus, which lasted more than an hour, saw black students tearing off their skins as to whether one white man should be allowed to speak or not.

The outcome saw all but I stating that all, including the white settler coloniser from Afriforum, should be allowed to speak. All formations, including EFFSC and PYA, publicly stated the position that all persons on the program should speak.

I had gone to the convention, noting the multiple contradictions and how they clash with communicating a clear position on free decolonised education; but I foolishly never foresaw a situation where black people would be so invested in dialogue on the “rights” of a settler coloniser, yet so committed to the brutalization of black bodies.

Between the caucus and the second and final disruption, Afriforum and a few of my comrades were interviewed. The smug of whiteness was apparent at this convention and it had stained what was a much needed conversation. Post the interview, there was a brief and swift interaction between myself and the Afriforum delegate and it ultimately saw Afriforum leaving the convention and subsequently laying an unwarranted charge of assault against me.

White people are criminals but such is their right in this anti-black society that they can go and lay charges against black bodies despite them being the embodiment of violence.

With Afriforum now gone, what we saw was a rumble of black bodies from the ANC and EFF student populace. They had no interest in affording each other dialogue as they did with the white settler coloniser. It was a replication of the parliament of South Africa, only there was no parliamentary protection services, it was a straight up street fight between the political formations.

The EFF were sent running and those of us who push the code “peace amongst blacks, war against the enemy” were left gobsmacked!

The look on one guy’s face as they dragged him across the ground – theirs was an eagerness to beat him. This is a stain on my memory. It really fucked with my psyche.

We needed to beg and plead with PYA members to release this EFF member who they were dragging. The fellow was close to tears. I was too. In fact I cried a few days later as I recalled the self hatred our people have and how it is our stimulus to beat each other.

By this time the settler coloniser had left and his presence that had stained the entire convention had long been forgotten.

Nobody will remember that it was the presence of one white person that needed over an hour long debate. Nobody will remember the EFF saying all, including the settler conloniser, must be allowed to speak. We will only see EFFSC disrupting Minister Blade Nzimande and the bashing they received from PYA.

The hand of whiteness is ever present. It may have left our eyeline, but when many black bodies woke up on Sunday morning they felt the physical pain of a settler coloniser who should never have been present in the charting of black liberation.

“One settler! One bullet!”

Lindsay Maasdorp is the Black First Land First National Secretary for Student Affairs

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