October 24, 2015

An Open Letter to the World, from South Africa.


South Africa is buzzing with protests, demonstrations and petitions to end the blatant and debilitating corruption of our government.

It’s a long overdue struggle, under the guise of kids simply fighting for lower tertiary education fees. You know I don’t really like to talk about politics because I always end up looking like an idiot or getting so worked up that I can’t form sentences.

But this is more than politics. I wish you could see it. The streets, the university halls, the bridges, the courtyards of parliament, the pavements and government buildings are seas of passionate, mostly peaceful bodies, moving as one against an ever-increasingly contradictory police boundary, alternating from illegal brutality, to near nonchalance.

Voices, black and white, are calling for free education, redirection of misused tax-payers’ money back into education, and a general awakening to the disgusting and highly illegal greed the supposedly democratic government has taken part in.

It is difficult to think that this is the same government that fought the Apartheid regime, and won, with bigger fists and more at stake. Back then, they were fighting for their lives, their identity, and their right to humanity. Now, they sit in their polished wooden, caving seats, overweight in their indulgence, and ignore the voices of the new generation, streaming in through the barely-open windows.

Where is the freedom they fought for? How did it get so far up their asses?

Tear gas, physical force, water guns and rubber bullets shower down on mere 20-year-olds, unarmed, but for their flimsy cardboard with hashtags and scribbled slogans thereon.

The freedom fighters of our parents’ generation must be feeling some serious dejavu.

Two of my friends spent last night in jail. Although dropped hastily, their charges were, among others, public violence and treason. I’ve seen the videos. There is nothing violent about a 22-year-old with glasses askew on the bridge of his nose, his fists crossed above his head, standing in silence.

There is nothing treasonous about a young man fighting for this country’s chance at a future.

The pictures and Facebook posts bring tears to my eyes. It is a wondrous time to be alive. A marvellous generation to have been born into. The two significant leaders of this protest are women. They will be mothers to an entirely new way of life.

And all this before I’ve even eaten breakfast.

You know what strikes me with all the steel it can muster? The privilege. White. Mine. The fact that I can sit here in my polka dot blue nightdress, bloated, static, drowsy from a hot shower, with my laptop in lap, and live with myself.

You have no idea how guilty I feel every time I think about having left university. All that opportunity to learn and discover, discarded. What gave me the right to throw something so precious to the birds? Every face in those oceans of protesters sits heavy in my heart. Had they been given my opportunities, they would have sucked the very essence from their honeydew blossoms, and used them to grow.

It is hard to think that there are still normal things going on in the world. Grandmothers are dying, dogs are getting lost, teenagers have ridiculous plans to get drunk on the weekend. From here, it seems that life has paused in solidarity with this movement.

As it should. For what is life without education? And I don’t only mean the institutionalised, hand-your-paper-in-on-time education that we are fighting for. I mean the broadening of one’s mind, the opening of doors you didn’t know existed, the flooding of rivers in your emotional being that had as yet run dry.

This is a turning point. We can feel the rusty wheels groaning under the weight of young bodies finally holding a failing government accountable. They will be oiled with the sweat of a thousand bodies in the midday sun, singing. They will be pushed gently forward with hands covered in papercuts from posters. They will roll forward, as South Africa lifts the handbrake up for a second and gathers the momentum of many generations’ struggles.

We will move forward.

Today, I sing in solidarity with the voices of a new revolution.

There is still so much that must fall.

There is still so much that must rise.


Author: Ruby Gill

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Embizweni/Twitter (#feesmustfall)

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