By Onthatile Kgoadigoadi
The discussion about Progressive black academics which was held on the 9th of May 2017 at the UJ-SWC was largely filled with a somewhat somber atmosphere. It sought to challenge the structures of the universities and how “universities are meant to create assimilation for students”.
“If there is one thing that the Apartheid government or white people, in general, will never let go of it is the intelligentsia. They kept the universities, they are refusing with the universities,” said former Wits SRC president, Mcebo Dlamini.
“When you say you need more black professors they say you are going to collapse the standard. Whose standards are they talking about? Whose standards are going to be collapsed?” asked Dlamini while addressing the audience on the discussion of advancing black academics.
The sourness and somber atmosphere of students’ representatives who categorically attempted to sabotage the discussion could not have gone without being noticed by Dlamini.
“It does not start here in these structures but from the mother body, where even when you invite senior committees to partake in the program the only thing they worry about is numbers,” says Dlamini.
“I normally say to my comrades, even if we are two we must deliberate…what matters [the] most is the conviction and the commitment,” said the former Witwatersrand SRC President, Dlamini.
The YCLSA took the initiative to move around higher institutions in various provinces with the aim of engaging students in debates and encouraging them to be ‘progressive’ while advancing National Democratic Revolution (NDR), a building block for socialism.
Mcebo found himself conflicted with the boots he initially wanted to fit into, regarding the black progressive academia in pursuing the interests of the NDR which is being organized by the Young Communist League (YCL).
The former Wits SRC leader was troubled to hear non-racialism as an ideology because to him, “black is black and white is white.”
Dlamini highlighted that it is in gatherings like these where students need to challenge the positions that they find themselves in and reach the core surface of these ideologies instead of being broad.
Mcebo continued to question the procedure the YCL sought to take, of how it would balance race and class. “Will it ignore the issue of race today and talk about class if we are to advance the NDR that says there is non-racialism… the document says it does not want to see black people marginalized and oppressed, of which they are even today,” said Dlamini.
The YCLSA National Secretary, Mluleki Dlelanga took to the podium to share that the program will be moving to institutions of higher learning, engaging students on what is meant by progressive black academics.
“Have you taken the time to understand who controls the entry and exit of education,” asked Dlelanga. “I am not racist; my organization is also fighting for non-racialism. But zooming closely on the administration…who controls the entry and exit in education…our human resources at all universities and colleges are managed by white people…”
Dlelanga thus continued to highlight some of the factors that contribute to high fee-paying in institutions. Amongst other factors, it is that the content consumed and taught in universities is imported to South Africa and that “all instruments used have been paid [for] and come at a heavy price.”
Dlelanga strongly condemned churches by saying that the “church is the power struggle…they abuse our people strongly.” Little did he know that he would be strongly opposed as it did not sit well with some members of the audience.
“When I joined YCL I was a full Christian, but when I came to YCL I was told that they don’t even recognize the issue of the church, the issue of Jesus. Till today I find it contradictory because… one of the opposing factors that we share commonality with the church is we are against the abuse of alcohol and other substances that are endangering our society.”
“I have a problem with the issue of YCL and the church. The challenge is that we are rubbishing the issue of the church without looking at the positive factors that are brought by the church into the society…If we take the church out of the society as the Communist Party then we will leave a vacuum and I wonder if we would be able to fill the gap,” added an attendee of the discussion.
UJ-SWC students showed discontent towards Dlamini’s comments during the FeesMustFall protests about how he sold out the students’ movement for failure to actively participate due to heavy securitization and the expulsion of students’ activists by UJ.
“You should not cut a tree that you will need in the future. You should not poop on a shadow you will need in the future. We did not like it Mcebo when you showed off in front of cameras saying that UJ comrades did not participate in the FeesMustFall…we cannot be patriotic Mcebo, if when you see the media you bad-mouth UJ comrades,” an attendee challenged Dlamini.