The Mandela Rhodes Community stands in full solidarity with the FeesMustFall movement in South Africa, pledging moral support for students fighting for fair access to higher education. Many Mandela Rhodes Scholars, such as Kgotsi Chikane who was arrested in Cape Town and ludicrously charged with high treason, have been at the forefront of current protests.
Chairperson of the Community’s Board of Directors, Suntosh Pillay, says “we support all our Scholars currently in the crowds, and to those contributing in other ways. It is our moral duty to speak up and not be silent. Silence, indifference, or denial is complicity with an unjust system. We will not stand by and do nothing.”
“We therefore urge every single citizen of South Africa to use their sphere of influence to make a positive difference – change the conversations you are in and use the space to speak up against the systematic exclusions facing our young people, specifically those who are poor and black. Be part of a changing narrative.”
Board Director Simangele Mabena, a Wits graduate, says she will not be silenced by the measures put out to exclude people on race, economic standing, gender, disability, or any other discriminatory grounds.
“This movement is what we have been feeling in our bones but hadn’t been able to articulate for various reasons. Fear of being labelled as ‘ungrateful’ and ‘misguided’. Fear of speaking the truth when my mere presence in an institution that wants me to fit in reminds me that I won’t. Feeling shame that I’m not like the other ‘cool kids’ even though I was the cool kid who was trying to get an education, not for herself but for her family. So, no more,” says Mabena. “We come in peace but will not leave in pieces.”
Laura Brooks, Finance Director, says she is “proud to support the call for the decolonisation of and increased access to education. I condemn any police brutality that unlawfully victimises those who participate in the associated protests and gatherings.”
Pillay says that it is tragic that Nelson Mandela is repeatedly quoted as believing that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world, yet government is actively blunting this weapon and denying its power.
“We are betraying Mandela’s ideals and ourselves by allowing us to dehumanize our fellow Africans, and in the process, dehumanize ourselves, by denying generations of young people the opportunities for a better life. It is unconstitutional and immoral. Mandela also said that ‘the purpose of freedom is to create it for others’. Education enables freedom from poverty.”
As an alumni organisation composed of post-graduate students and professionals from across the African continent, Mandela Rhodes Scholars aspire to be exceptional, ethical leaders for the betterment of Africa. Education is one of the four core values of the organisation, to be used as tool for human development. “We urge all citizens to make their voices heard and be counted as a human being that helped enable the freedom of others,” says Pillay.