By Magnificent Mndebele
During the FeesMustFall at Wits University students went to other campuses to urge for participation. But there is one group that was left to keep the protest into motion. Most of the fire-keepers have passed the 50s, and they are approaching 60s.
It is difficult to comprehend the core reason as to why would a group of above 50s and 60s jump up and down all over the streets with the students, despite the shots of stun grenades and rubber bullets which were fired by the police at the students.
The 2017-FeesMustFall has led to another revelation which has not been heard in the media.
Three cleaners at the University of Witwatersrand finally chose to speak up about their concerns as mothers, and as a class of poorer.
This is the story of their own predicament as they reflect their own perspective as to why they actively support the FeesMustFall Movement.
“When we try to support the students in their quest for free education, we are told to continue to work,” said Samuel Gafani, 60, a cleaner at Wits University.
“Since Mandela came out of prison I have never seen freedom. Our freedom has been taken by other people,” Valencia Nkantsha,54, who is also a cleaner a Wits.
“One thing I am asking is that why when democracy came, they said there will be free education but that has never happened,” said Thandeka Mbhele, 53, a cleaner at Wits.
Gafani says that the leaders of this country are reluctant to listen to the challenges the poor students are exposed to. He continues to say that if fees are further hiked poor people will never have access to education, and this is amongst the causes that compel people to engage with illegal things.
“Our children are marketing themselves with spades and forks, yet children of the privileged market themselves with University degrees. What is happening within universities is wrong. Our children will never have access to education,” said Gafani.
“How will my children enter into university because I do not have money as universities are for those who can afford,” he added.
Nkantsha lives in oppression yet in a democratic country. She reveals that previously at Wits they were earning R 2 700, and the students fought on their behalf, that now they are earning R 6 000 per month. She feels like they are owing to the students a favour to support them in their struggle, which becomes reciprocal.
One aspect that makes Nkantsha to live in oppression is that their expenses far exceed their monthly salary meanwhile the government has turned a blind eye to keep the promise which they made before the dawn of democracy, to implement free and accessible education by all.
The majority of those who are in laborious work in many Universities in South Africa were outsourced workers. This has triggered cleaners and others who are the proletariats to embark on strikes early this year as they struggled to pay fees of their children at Universities.
Mbhele says they are insourced because of the students who stood and fought for them. This marks a platonic bond between cleaners and the students who have currently put the country in turmoil.
“We will die for them, and we shall see what the outcome would be,” says Mbhele.
Mbhele believes that they are fighting the same battle that had been caused by the same enemy. TOJ
Reporting by Magnificent Mndebele; Editing by Lauren Pillay.