“On judgement day, God will ask me what I did when I saw injustice in the world.” These were the words of student leader and politics major at Wits University Azra Karim, who was featured in the film People Versus the Rainbow Nation about the #FeesMustFall campaign. Karim is privileged but decided the movement had to be a battle for ALL students and citizens of South Africa who had any semblance of a social conscience.
About four months ago, I had the privilege of watching the film by Lebogang Rasethaba. Up to this time, I found myself unconsciously buying into the branded story of undisciplined and ungrateful students who terrorised other students and destroyed campus property. I had not fully heard the story of the students.
The film gave me a first-hand account of the other story that has not been told. The story of dreams, hardships and the possibility of a better life in a country that promised this to the young generation. How many of us have taken the time to find out the other story of this campaign with the intention of truly understanding what it is all about?
The uncomfortable truth is that we should have all been marching in the streets with the students because this is a battle about inequality and social injustice. It also became a battle between black despair at the lack of change and white complacency about their contribution to this unfolding story of glaring social injustice, that was spawned in the era of apartheid. More than this, the battle is about human dignity and the right of all of us to dream and have the chance of a better life. As one of the students, Richard Moremi said in the film: “Success for a white kid is not a great victory. Success for a white kid is destiny.”
There is a bigger cause that we as South Africans have to be aware of and more than this, have the moral courage to stand up as a nation across all the things that have kept us divided up until now. If we want to talk about social cohesion, combatting racism, addressing the inequalities, humiliation and indignity of the past, then let our actions speak louder than words. This is how we will change this country, not through billboards proclaiming that we are a rainbow nation.
This campaign has to touch something inside each of us. When we think of the covenant that Mandela spoke of during his inaugural speech in Pretoria, 1994. He said:
“We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
I have chosen to feel this deep within me and have made it my quest to awaken this covenant in every person that I meet. It is time to step up the line and know that #FeesMustFall is a fight for social justice and that there are many other battles before us. Beyond the feisty words, what is your commitment to writing a new story for all South Africans? And more importantly, what is your contribution to this story?