What happened to the 'Fees Must Fall' movement leaders?

Some of the fees must fall student activists who led the fight for the scrapping of fees at universities across the country are looking back on their struggle with mixed emotions.

Several of the leaders of the student movement that engulfed campuses three years ago are still fighting to clear their names in courts while others have been suspended.

With former president Jacob Zuma announcing free university education late last year and the Treasury committed to provide funding for it last week, Sowetan spoke to some students whose faces made the posters of the struggle for free education.

Former Wits University SRC president Mcebo Dlamini, who will appear in court for the 31st time on Friday, complained that his case has been dragging on for such a long time.

Dlamini was arrested two years ago on charges of theft, public violence and being in possession of a dangerous weapon during the 2016 fees must fall campaign.

"I am a postgraduate LLB student and it [the court case] is disturbing my academic performance. I spent the last two years juggling between my studies and courts.

"I am stressing about legal costs which are very expensive. I also sit and wonder what will the verdict be as I don't want anything that will jeopardise my degree because any criminal record means I won't be able to serve as a lawyer."

Nompendulo Mkatshwa
Nompendulo Mkatshwa

Another former Wits SRC president, Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, is in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Mkhatshwa became the darling of the people with her trademark ANC doek.

She would not say what she was doing in Abidjan but said she was furthering her studies with the University of South Africa (Unisa) with the intention of getting into the education sector.

"Many generations have fought and contributed to the advancement that we see today but it is not yet uhuru. This is an ongoing process."

Naledi Chirwa
Naledi Chirwa

University of Pretoria's Naledi Chirwa, who is still on suspension, said life goes on for her.

"I have been on suspension at the University of Pretoria [UP] for two years now. I could have been graduating in April. I am now in the process of getting myself registered at Wits for my master's in drama and film studies. However, the process is taking long so I don't know whether it is because of my [suspension]."

Chirwa said that while she was still waiting for UP to give a disciplinary date, she kept herself busy with odd jobs.

Chumani Maxwele, who threw pig excrement at Cecil John Rhodes's statue in Cape Town, said he was busy with his postgraduate degree in political science at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

"The past three years have been the greatest challenges of my life and yet very fulfilling. I am excited that we were able to win the fight for #FreeEducation in our lifetime which is now a reality."

October 15, 2015. STRONG: Shaeera Kalla argues with a police officer as thousands of Wits students gathered in Johannesburg this week.
October 15, 2015. STRONG: Shaeera Kalla argues with a police officer as thousands of Wits students gathered in Johannesburg this week.
Image: IHSAAN HAFFEJEE

Alex Hotz, who was also part of #RhodesMustFall campaign, said she was busy with her postgraduate LLB at UCT.

"I was suspended for two years. Even though I still believe in the struggle of the students, I am a bit cautious,"

Sthembiso Ndlovu of Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Soshanguve campus is preparing for his B.Ed honours graduation.

"I have been committed in helping our brothers and sisters. I spent most of my time in the struggle to transform higher education. The struggle is not yet over," he said.

Shaeera Kalla, from Wits University, is now a social activist working with a group of young professionals to deal with social and developmental issues. "I am also busy with master's research with the Wits School of Governance."

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