By: Ncedisa Mpemnyama
“It is such academic mad houses that keep on churning out arrogant, snobbish, hypocritical and pea-minded bastards who enter the world with the superior airs of holier-than-thou, we and them attitude calling themselves Doctors, Professors or any stupid titles to distance themselves other ordinary folks whom they look down on as dunces.
These idiots have done little in changing the world for a better place. If anything, they have contributed in making it worse by joining their counterparts in the right-wing maggoty camp influencing policies that worsen this Babylon called earth. They wear gowns and mortar boards receiving degrees from pink-faced old blokes who shake their hands and congratulate them for entering the world of knowledge” – Extract of a letter penned by Dambudzo Marechera to White Girlfriend, Samantha.
This small intervention underneath is made possible by the recent graduation ceremonies around the country especially taking into consideration recent uprisings around decolonisation and uprooting of racist worldviews governing these spaces especially with respect to black bodies.
In hip-hop language one who has fallen off is one who has lost their essence or soul with respect to their craftsmanship. I hold this view about the crop of activists who animated universities from 2015 up till now with their refreshing militancy. The fallists, as they affectionately call themselves, have hit an ideological cul-de-sac. They are residing in political limbo, unable to move and equally unable to see themselves outside the systems of power they claim to hate.
Apart from the feeble self-serving failure to wrestle the resistance from universities to communities coupled with the inability to arrest the petty bourgeios character of the movement, the crest of the appaling and crippling meltdown has been the movements crudely accommodationist agenda. In simple terms #FeesMustFall has become a crowbar to open up space for access and privilege for individual persons/leaders careerist agendas, which violate the spirit and values that the movement was grounded on.
This saddening move takes one back to one Chumani Maxwele in 2015: half naked glistening torso in tandem with a pink construction hat on a chiskop, the lips blew a whistle while throwing shit on Cecil John Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) – an act most credit as a pivotal moment in the creation of what they refer to as ‘Fallism’, a Black Power Pan-Africanist philosophy inspired reckoning with coloniality at a symbolic and lived experience level. At the recent graduation ceremony in UCT, it was Maxwele again who had tongues wagging with his latest intervention.
With many wearing designer suits and posh clothes from the best retail outlets, in came Chumani looking like a Rivonia trialist Nelson Mandela in Xhosa “traditional” regalia. If ever there was a moment to see the splendour of Maxwele’s political schizophrenia it was this one.
On this occassion he stands in front, erect and shouting Pan-Africanist slogans. He looks up as if conversing with forces higher than the ones at Jameson Hall. He picks up sand from a bag while a stick protrudes from it, hands simultaneously holding an ANC flag and suddenly he screams, “Winnie Madikizela Mandela!”. He then calls out Max Price for “exploiting us”. He also takes out sand and drops it like a chef seasoning food and he screams again drowning the space: “Umhlaba, umhlaba!”. Price smiles in an uncomfortable fashion, a cynical smile that all blacks are used to from whites when they feel threatened or no longer at ease. His hands go up in the air and make a circular motion with masculine vigour. It’s as if a spirit has taken hold of him. His eyes flash with rage he seems unable to articulate. I’m moved. As I watch, the incoming Vice Chancellor makes a feeble intervention accompanied by a black man. I think of Frank Wildersohn’s adage: the role of a politician is to manage the anger of blacks. At that moment the Oprah in Mamokgethi is clearly visible. Black excellence proponent shutting out black anger for white affirmation. Black on black violence in a space that needed to be stormed. I get angry and I swear. The crowd sings an annoying mzabalazo song. On social media Maxwele is roasted and denounced by some fallists. Others I’m familiar with also criticise him. My anger threatens to implode but I supress it.
Why has the movement fell off? It is mostly as a result of a poor grasp of how social change happens and how power operates. These two elements have facilitated the recent lull and arrogant philistinism masquerading as resistance.
One would have to ask, owing to the movement’s naked anti-colonial posture when it started, especially the demands that animated the #Rhodesmustfall moment, how did the very crusaders against colonial symbolism end up subjecting themselves to crudely anti-black and colonial graduation ceremonies that violate the initial spirit of the movement?
How can a student who two years ago smeared paint and “defaced” colonial symbolism without a care for its respectability end up being the one who dominates social media with grotesque pics of a jamboree moment that appeals for social acceptance and congratulations?
Not too long ago we thought intently around this “Hire a Graduate” campaign and what it means for those who want to “end the world as we know it” as was often stated, to now beg for jobs? The same fallists who propagated the idea that these graduates needed to be creators of an industry that fashions itself in a way not congruent with current colonial patterns, are now at this next phase of absorption into the status quo, “Hire me, please baas”. Now after ululation, unending pictures and tears with their parents, they are faced with job seeking. Who is going to give jobs to these people? Do these people know the statistics of black youth unemployment and graduate ones to be exact? I keep quiet and smile and offer congratulations as I see unfree smiles from blacks hungry for absolution. The fallists are burdened with knowledge, they are not a 2013 graduate. We have critiqued the likes of Xolela Mangcu, who used black struggle to advance his academic aspirations, gain professorship and be included in the white academic project. We have joked around those who sloganeer only to go tail between the legs and secure a position on some measly reformist NGO. We have cried for those who have been muzzled by their economic aspirations.
Fanon, a dominant voice in fallist spaces has warned us when he speaks of the native’s desire for what the coloniser has at a libidinal level. The native is still envious and not much has changed.
The native has removed the colonial statue, but wears the colonial gown.
Not much has changed.
Ncedisa Mpemnyama is BLF Western Cape chairperson and member of Jargon Music.