Press Release – #FeesMustFall

Kathrada Foundation in solidarity with protesting students

Struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada visited the University of the Witwatersrand on 22nd October 2015 to show his solidarity with protesting students.

This follows days of student protests at several universities across the country calling for a no fee increase.

#FeesMustFallSpeaking to members of the media, Kathrada said that he “wishes the students all the best in their peaceful demonstration”. He added that the spirit of the students, was one of “victory” which “cannot be defeated”.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s Director, Neeshan Balton, said that South Africa is witnessing something “ground-breaking”.

How the country reacts to it is going to determine how we respond to a range of other issues. These calls cannot be ignored, and expected to go away.

The Foundation urged the South African government to reprioritise the national budget to address the inequality in education.

“The problem of fees is not one that can be solved just by universities. Government has a role to play in ensuring accessibility and affordability, especially for the disadvantaged. It is clear that universities are underfunded by government. It is however, unfair to place the burden of this shortfall on students, many of whom are already struggling to afford tertiary education. We believe that government can cut wasteful expenditure, and can reprioritise the national budget because education itself is essential to addressing inequality in South Africa in the long term,” said Balton.

“We must recognise that exorbitant fee increases will force the poor to drop out, entrenching the cycle of poverty and the current economic status quo between advantaged and disadvantaged.”

The Foundation also pledged its solidarity to the protesting students. “We commend the students for their activism and determination to shape their own futures. Most of all, they should be praised for the non-racial character of the protests. We have seen solidarity from students across race, gender, culture and political affiliation. Although this is indicative of the impact that fee increases would have on most students, it also gives one an idea of the maturity of the student leadership, who are seeing this issue as one that requires unity across all barriers,” Balton said.

He added that the Foundation is calling for charges against the University of Cape Town students, arrested yesterday, to be dropped.

“While initial reports that students will be charged with treason have now been quashed, the mere fact that this could have been a possibility, two decades into democracy, is shocking,” Balton added.

“This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, which called for the doors of learning and culture to be open to all. Students today are reiterating this call, and should not be charged for treason, as were the 156 Treason Trialists, who were charged as a consequence of the Congress of the People and Freedom Charter.

“It is time that we listen to what our youth are demanding and instead of simply praising the Freedom Charter, actually try to aspire to implementing its ideals – Neeshan Balton


#FeesMustFall