Posted in Semester 2: Text

Slice of life: Speaking my language is normal

“Your Xhosa is too deep. Where are you from?”

I’ve always been asked that question throughout my upbringing. It’s not surprising though that in a country with eleven official languages, black people are made to believe their languages are beneath languages from the West.

Writing and speaking “good English” is beneficial because it means you can get a good job, you can communicate even with the broader international community. That’s good and I do not dispute that but my problem is when a black child is made to believe that being educated means that you should only master the white man’s language. It is becoming a normal thing for a black child to say they are not fluent in their mother tongue. I’ve once heard a black lady before say “who is still interested in reading something in their language nowadays, most black university students can’t really read in their languages.”

I was disturbed partly because what she said was true but also because the statement was sort of labelling the situation as normal. I am aware of the irony of writing in English. This is obviously a clear demonstration of the powers that we have given the language in this country and for the obvious reason that not everyone will understand what I’ve written.

I can never forget the day I interviewed a young boy whose father is a very good Nguni news anchor, it was to my surprise when I greeted the boy in his mother tongue and he looked at me with a confused face, his father informed me with a smile that “he doesn’t speak the language” I was shocked. I don’t think I would have been that surprised if the parent were someone else as it is becoming a norm now for parents not to teach their kids their indigenous languages.

One professor said to me “introducing all these languages in university will be costly. At least with English everyone is sort of included”. He really did not see or understand why it’s important for other languages to gain recognition I guess it’s because we’ve also allowed and been made to believe our languages aren’t that important to us.

One person in the broadcasting field once told me that “It’s too costly to have content on TV in all eleven languages. At least if we accommodate three”.  “At least” for who?  That is the very reason that leads people not to see the need to preserve and promote their languages and to see them as inferior. The notion that it is not important, that it’s normal and acceptable for a black child not to be able to read and write in their mother-tongue. I understand the reason  AfriForum is up in arms to defend Afrikaans as they understand the importance of preserving one’s language and the advantage it therefore brings to have a language that is not only official on paper but is recognised in all spheres.

I remember during the broadcast of Nelson Mandela’s funeral, Twitter was a buzz with people complaining when Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, speaking on behalf of the Mandela family, delivered his speech in IsiXhosa, there were even media articles about international guests being lost during his speech. Why would they not expect to hear a language that is foreign to them at a funeral of a black South African? Surely that is the normal thing to expect?

A friend of mine once laughed when she saw that I had a Xhosa bible, saying she didn’t expect a university student to be reading it as it was easier to read the English version. Even churches where there are only black people, the sermon would be conducted in English, and congregants would also be carrying an English bible.

We need to do away with normalising what is not normal. I was taught that if you lose a language, you lose a culture and you lose a history. If we allow that to happen, our cultural diversity will be depleted.

When I express myself in my indigenous tongue, I am not being “too traditional or backward” I’m behaving normally.

Originally published on WitsVuvuzela



Posted in Semester 2: Text

Day 4: FeesMustFall 2016 regains momentum

After a day of violence, rubber bullets, shock grenades and thrown stones, the Wits #Fees2017 protest on Thursday received what felt like new momentun after a meeting in Solomon House which sought to unite students from different politcal organisations, endorse leaders and  was opened by former #FeesMustFall leader Mcebo Dlamini.

Dlamini led a march of students from Education Campus to Solomon House in the afternoon. The protesters were allowed to march peacefully, escorted by Campus Control, with the police watching from a distance.

Dlamini was greeted at Solomon House, the place where last year he held centre stage as a student leader, with cheers from the students assembled.

But Dlamini quickly made clear that he was present only to support new leaders. Pointing at SRC president and Progressive Youth Alliance member Kefenste Mkhari,Wits Economic Freedom Fighters leader Koketso Poho as well as student activist Catherine Busisiwe Seabe, Dlamini said “These are the leaders that will deliver free education for us.”

Continuing, Dlamini declared that students “have the numbers” and if the government did not provide free education they would vote it out of power.

“If the ruling party does not provide free education, we are going to vote it out and put leadership that will prioritise education,” Dlamini said.

Dlamini was heckled by some protesters, including a group of female students near the front carrying sjamboks but he responded, “If you don’t like me it’s okay I don’t care I just want to work with you.”

Dlamini then handed the microphone off to Mkhari who emphasised that the student protest was peaceful and should remain so while condemning police violence. He said the movement was drawing a line against violence.

“Today we have separated the violent protesters from the non-violent protesters,” Mkhari said.

Worker’s representative Thandiswa Yaphi also spoke at Solomon House. She spoke about the unfair treatment of workers highlighting that Wits students should not allow the Matrix to operate until workers from Sizzlers, a cafe in the Matrix, who were dismissed are re-instated. She highlighted that insourcing was the solution for retail workers at Wits.

“There are no workers who are better than others, when I go to work I say I’m going to Wits not Sizzlers,” she said.

Seabe and the other student leaders then assigned some positions and broke the students into task teams that would deal with media, logistics and strategy. Dlamini also announced that a number of academics including struggle icon Ahmad Kathrada would be supporting the movement. The students are set to convene at Solomon House this evening to discuss a way forward for the protest.

Originally published on WitsVuvuzela

Posted in Semester 2: Text

Students meeting in Solomon House to discuss way forward

Wits students have occupied and are holding a meeting in Solomon House–previously known as Senate House–having broken down a door to gain access after they were denied entry by security guards and police officers.

The students are expected to hold a meeting to discuss the way forward. Earlier, incoming Student Representative Council (SRC) president Kefentse Mkhari annouced that Wits would be shut down because students want “free education now”. This after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement that fees should increase by a maximum of 8% for students whose families make more than R600,000 a year.

The meeting is set to outline the merits of further protest.  Outgoing SRC deputy president Motheo Broddie said they would not prevent people from speaking as all students were allowed to raise their voice at the meeting.

In the afternoon following Nzimande’s announcement, some students wearing Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) t-shirts prevented student activist and Economic Freedom Fighters member Simamkele Dlakavu from speaking. Dlakavu told Wits Vuvuzela that she wanted to raise a point of clarity regarding what they are going to be striking for. She said the end goal should be made clear because last year during FeesMustFall protests students were striking for free education and insourcing of workers but said the PYA ended the strike although workers had also not been insourced and only a zero-percent increase announced. “ I will only be shutting down for free education, de-colonised education and the dignity of black workers,” said Dlakavu.

Broddie denied that anyone was intentionally prevented from speaking but said the earlier meeting was “chaotic” and proper procedure was not followed.

Originally published on WitsVuvuzela

Posted in Semester 2: Text

Fighters stall leadership election

Wits EFF to elect its leadership structure next week

The Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was unable to elect its leadership structure this week after a meeting was disrupted owing to disputes over the election process.

The meeting to elect new members to the various portfolios was ended abruptly on Tuesday, September 13, due to disagreements between the presiding officer, Rendani Nematswerani and some EFF members. The members were concerned about the fact that Nematswerani, also the deputy secretary general of the national EFF student command, was solely responsible for the counting of votes and argued that he should have been assisted.

Wits EFF convenor Koketso Poho said members felt that the presiding officer was “bullying” the session. “We can’t allow views of loyal members to be suppressed however small they may be in number,” said Poho.

Nematswerani told Wits Vuvuzela that there was a misunderstanding between the rules of the house and the guidelines of the student command. “We must allow members to learn the constitution and familiarise themselves with them and we are here to assist,” said Nematswerani. He went on to say that they (Wits EFF and himself) were all under the umbrella of the EFF and were working towards the same goal, “misunderstandings may occur but it is their duty to correct and build the EFF”.

Poho says they have requested the secretary general Phiwaba Madokwe to be present at next week’s elective meeting and also to be assisted by a deployee to avoid disputes.  Poho added that there was no infighting within the student movement but members felt leadership was being imposed on them and therefore had to defend the legitimacy of their branch.

Originally published on WitsVuvuzela