Should #fallists get time of day?

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Should #fallists get time of day?

After a short holiday break, #fallists are back in full swing on South African campuses. What we mostly hear about in the media and social platforms are the repercussions of their campaigns, including the tearing down of statues; the burning of art; clashing with private security, police and rival groups; the burning of vehicles and buildings; and the closing down of campuses. What we hear about less is what drives them, what their demands are, what their ultimate goals are and what will make them stop their disruptive activities. The key questions asked by many ordinary South Africans is whether #fallists should get the time of day or whether universities, the police and government should simply crack down aggressively so that normality can return to our centres of higher learning.

Although many people believe that there is a political force behind the #fallist movements, it is my view that this is a grassroots movement, born from frustration with the state of higher education in SA and spilling over to address inequalities in the wider SA. As a grassroots movement, without clear leadership, there is a distinct anarchist dimension to the #fallist movements. They lack discipline, co-ordination, clear singular goals and organisational structures. This makes them a difficult group to negotiate with.

However, dialogue and negotiation is key not just to address the concerns of these movements, but to ensure that we can get back to the business of education, creating employment, growing the economy and making SA a better place for all. A crackdown is likely to lead to the more radical elements in the #fallist movements gaining prominence and power, whilst dialogue and engagement is more likely to favour the more pragmatic elements within the movements. It is vital that pragmatism reigns over chaos. Hence, we must give #fallists the time of day.

The demands of #Fallist movements are wide and varied and in some cases extremely radical. At the most radical end, many #fallist movements are calling for decolonisation, not just of higher learning institutions, but of the country in general. The implication here is that they want to get rid of all vestiges of British colonialism and apartheid. This is a very dangerous aim in my opinion, which risks destabilising the economy, alienating large swathes of the country and destroying higher learning institutions, exactly the institutions that the #fallists want to gain more access to. This ideological aim has to be nipped in the bud and banished to the intellectual fringes where it belongs.

Other demands of the #fallists are more reasonable, but still difficult to achieve, especially considering the current financial constraints on the country and universities. These include free tertiary education, free accommodation, the cessation of outsourcing, the removal of Afrikaans as a medium of education, etc. These are areas for dialogue, discussion and negotiation, but pragmatism is required. #fallist movements should not be allowed to use disruption and violence to extract concessions that are not economically viable; fair and equitable; and good for education and the country as a whole. At the same time, these valid and deep seated concerns cannot simply be dismissed. These movements must be listened to and engaged with open minds and empathy, pencils have to be sharpened, wallets have to be opened and solutions have to be found that can address these issues or at least put a process in place that will address them over time.

At the same time that higher learning institutions and broader society opens their ears and minds to the concerns of #fallists, they should also have demands of their own. Disruption and violence must stop, #fallists across the country must put in place organisational structures and commit to a negotiation process; and #fallists must commit to the necessary building process required to improve higher education for all. It is one thing to simply demand concessions from the establishment, but there are many areas where #fallists can contribute.

At institutions of higher learning, they can contribute to the academic process (while at the same time addressing diversity) by becoming tutors, lab assistants etc. #fallists who graduate, should seriously consider staying on at universities to teach and do research. #fallists can become involved in fund-raising to help fund tuition and accommodation for students in financial need.

#fallists are also in a strong position to address the elephant in the room, which is the poor quality of education in general in SA. Despite their protestations, #fallists are in fact privileged in the context of the overall education system in SA. They are in an elite group of only 1/3rd of their grade 1 classmates that passed matric and only 12% of their grade 1 classmates that made it to university. There is significant room for #fallists to become more magnanimous in their approach and to contribute to the broader improvement in education in SA. There are many things that they can do. They could volunteer at underperforming schools in their communities as tutors, sports coaches, etc. They could use the momentum created through the #fallist movements to demand higher standards at schools, reduced absenteeism and improved teaching techniques. Once they find themselves in the professional world, they can become involved with NGOs who are active in improving underperforming schools, like Partners for Possibility.

It is my view that despite the havoc created at higher learning institutions and the bad reputation that #fallist organisations have with the broader SA population, that these are important movements that cannot be ignored. We must give #fallists the time of day. We must listen to their concerns. We must use their energy to improve education in this country and to move us towards a more prosperous and equitable future. I therefore appeal to universities, private security and the police for restraint. At the same time, I appeal to #fallist organisations for pragmatism. It is time for you to take the energy created by your movements and apply it to the building of institutions. The best way for you to ensure sustained change, is to become involved.


What do you think of the #fallist movements at our campuses? Do you know what their demands are? Do you think that their demands are reasonable? Would you support dialogue and discussions? Do you think #fallists can become a valuable force in building up our society? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!


#fallists #fallist #FeesMustFall #RhodesMustFall


Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

  • Malcolm

    I found your article well balanced and constructive, and whilst I agree totally with your sentiments, I feel there is one large stumbling block. Although possibly the majority of the “fallists” have grass roots issues at stake, and are easily coerced to join the movement, these people are leaderless in their quest. There are political forces that are leading the movement, with ulterior motives. They stand behind the scenes with no ambition to bring any dialogue to the negotiating table, because the instability and violence are much like the initial stages of an Arab spring, and this is exactly what they hope to achieve. Although these leaders are leading the people, they do not engage the university and government authorities, because they don’t want an amicable outcome to the situation. They are hoping for this path of instability, violence and destruction to keep growing and rapidly grow into many other sectors of the population. They want a South African version of an Arab spring to occur, and once it is in full swing in all spheres of business and institutions, only then will they take ownership, of the revolution, and take command of the situation and the country.
    In my opinion, it seems rather obvious we are dealing with the EFF here. The good news is that the Arab spring happened over night, and this is what lead to its great significance. What’s happening at the universities, unlike the Arab Spring, is localized to mainly the Universities, and has not spread overnight to all spheres of our society at the same level of protestation. It lacks the momentum of the Arab Spring. We do have many demonstrations on a daily basis, but it is still very conceivable that the greater population will see value in changing their circumstances with their votes, rather than through some unwanted and undesirable revolution.

  • Karl-Heinz Sittlinger

    I wonder if these students know the untold pain and suffering the country would take should such an Arab spring happen here. I wonder if they understand their role in the devaluation of the rand and possible consequences of the junk status..and especially who is likely to suffer from this.

    • Malcolm

      I don’t think they have the intellectual maturity to even remotely consider this notion. This is exactly what the likes of the EFF so shrewdly anticipate and thrive on. Many Privileged university students of the 80’s were no different. They also became part of a different revolution of sorts, the successes of which were achieved and democracy was the result. The interesting fact is that possibly 80% or more of those students ran away to first world countries forever, to escape the results of their achievements, and now sit on the other side of the fence in safety, and point fingers at us loyalists who stayed behind. Intellectual immaturity is a global phenomenon and affects most students worldwide regardless of how high their IQ is. Students are hungry for an excuse to prove themselves and make a name for themselves, and neither reason, nor consequence matter. Political strategists and motivators eat them up for breakfast, and they go willingly into the fray.

  • Malcolm and Karl-Heinz, you may also be interested in these pieces which discuss 1) the risk of the EFF and 2) that selective ANC/DA coalitions may be required to keep them out of power.

  • Corne Smith

    I do agree with some of your sentiments, but with others not. These “fallists” in my opinion are protesting for the sake of protest and therefore the “wide and variate” demands. Where they cannot protest against Afrikaans (due to English being the medium) they protest for fees, or housing or colonialism or etc etc. Whatever fancy their tickle. Many of the protesters are not even studying at the particular universities they are protesting at and only see it as a wonderful opportunity for some fun burn and looting. The past fiasco on the Shimla rugby field brought a pearler of a comment from Jansen. He commented on radio that although the protest and interruption of the rugby was illegal, the actions of the supporters infringed on the rights of the protesters to protest! What utter nonsense. When you are doing something illegal, you forfeit your right to do so. They will not stop. They target exam times cause they don’t want to study and finish. A lot of them are there with bursaries. They are taking videos of their “protesting” using fancy cellphones, iphones and laptops. They will keep doing this and find different reasons to protest till there are consequences for their actions. They don’t want to negotiate. They don’t want to find common ground. They only want THEIR ground and even if they do get what they want, they will find something else they “need”. It happened in ’95 on the then Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoer Onderwys. They protested at that time because they wanted to remove the Christian from the name, although it was the only university in SA with a Christian character. At the end students got angry and they were assaulted, much like what happened on the Shimla rugby field. The protesting immediately stopped and it took 10 years for protests to start up for different reasons. I can also tell you it won’t happen after a rugby match again, cause there were consequences. The “fallist” don’t like consequences. I believe if they act like criminals they should be treated like criminals. That’s the way I would be treated if I commit a crime.

  • Christof Coetzee

    These (Black) student protests are not an unique events, its just another symptom and true reflection of how morally corrupt and ill-disciplined a certain group of people in South Africa has become.
    These violent student protests are born from the same mindsets as those responsible for the thousands of robberies, brutal murders and rape, strikes, overall incompetence and Tax theft….maybe they will appreciate and acknowledge everything they got for free and all opportunities lost since 1994, only when they have completely destroyed South Africa – I’ve tried really hard, but cannot grasp their actions, sad

    • Malcolm

      I hear you. A morally corrupt majority vote for a morally corrupt party, which is currently the ANC. Like a falling brick, it is hard to stop this negative momentum. My feeling is that it is easier to let the brick to fall to the ground and then pick it up after it has lost all momentum, rather than to catch it on its way down. Sadly I think this is true for South Africa, that we will need to fall right down to the lowest level, before we can pick up the pieces and start afresh. Morally bankrupt by global Standards, is good by African Standards. Africa is a primitive continent, with primitive mindsets.

    • londi

      There you go again Chris, you are wrong & untrue to say blacks are corrupt, ill-disciplined, robbers, incompetent, tax thieves, murderers, rapist. You are entirely wrong & you know it. Your fore-fathers were brutal murders, robbers & thieves they killed many people just because of skin colour. But that does not give a black men right to call you names. It sad that even at Cooperate world your likes are so prejudice, they just looks at ones skin color and conclude that one is incompetent. There is hope though, not all Afrikaners & white south african think like you do. Can’t you just learn to respect other humans & stop generalizing. One thing we know transformation is a must at universities & all other institutions but we should all condemn violence & encourage dialogue.

      • Christof Coetzee

        No, not all black people are like that, and I know this for a fact because I had many conversations with highly respectable and disciplined Black people and they also fear for their future under the ANC and EFF.
        Londi, Apartheid was terrible an many people suffered, but based on statistics/facts the evils since 1994 equals and in some cases far exceeds that of Apartheid….. do you really want me to give you the full list??
        Shall we start with a Black president and 700 charges against him, his R240mil mansion built with tax payers money (including white tax payers)
        Or shall we start with the R700+bn stolen by the Black government, which could have gone towards education, instead hate the DA, keep voting for the ANC/EFF and burn down universities.
        Or shall we start with 17,000 murders per year (350,000 since 1994), some of which the most brutal in the world, it is not Whites and Indians committing these savage killings.
        Or shall we start the blame game, who turned SA into the no.1 Rape capital of the world since 1994
        Lets leave it here because we can write a book about the evils since 1994.
        Best you stop pointing fingers, get your heads out of the political and apartheid gutter and start focusing on fixing this country which you messed up so badly in only 21 years – and PLEASE, don’t call me a racist for bringing you to book, whats wrong is wrong regardless colour.

  • Paul Bobs

    If there is one difference between those that want to study and those that want to destroy, it is the inability of the latter to deal with the future. They just don’t know how to. It was illuminating to listen to Tapiwa Shendelane at 15 the youngest engineering student ever at Wits. As a message to her peers she said that they should focus on their goals and work to achieve them. Don’t be distracted by other issues. Dealing with the past is all consuming , emotive and exploitative by political interest. For the individual it achieves nothing. We should think ahead , not be chained to the past.

  • David N. Andrews MEd, CPSE