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In defence of Rhodes Must Fall

By Andrew Verrijdt

It’s hard to justify the destruction of historical and cultural items that Rhodes Must Fall is undertaking, and I’m not going to.

But how many of us have taken the time to find out what this current protest is actually about?

It may interest one to know that the most immediate cause of the current protest is that government bursaries from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme are too small to cover both university and residence costs leaving many students with a deficit of tens of thousands of rand that they have no practical way to recover.

Twitter @RhodesMustFall

Twitter @RhodesMustFall

And of course the most serious and long-term cause of the protests is that we are still not dealing with our racism problem, or our poverty problem. We’re just not.

We are still living in a country where most of the kids born in townships or on farms are screwed for life, and they know it. Our prisons overflow with poor people who were smart enough to know that joining a gang gave them a better chance of a good life than working on a farm for a pathetic R120 a day (including an “unprecedented” salary increase that only happened after massive protests).

Things in this country are not changing because the people with the power (which includes President Jacob Zuma, all the other politicians, all of our media personalities, and damn near everyone who is reading these words) don’t care enough to change it.

One may of course argue that there are other ways to get the point across rather than wanton destruction. But to that I must ask: like what exactly?

They’ve tried everything else. They protested peacefully for weeks and achieved nothing. But after one day of destruction everyone is talking about them.

It must seem to the protesters that our society is indicating very clearly that we will not listen to them until they start lighting fires.

Perhaps this is the reason why every significant movement for social change in human history has begun with large numbers of people breaking the law and then smashing things.

And there is a serious lack of empathy for the plight of South Africans of colour. I had major “developmental delays” when I was at school. It took a fleet of psychologists, occupational therapists, and learning support teachers before I was able to survive in a mainstream school. Getting to complete a PhD (as I am now doing) seemed impossible.

If I’d been born a poor black South African (even today) I would have been doomed. I have worked as a school psychologist and I can tell you that there is no chance that I would have gotten all the support I needed, there is little chance I would have made it to matric, and the odds of my getting a university bursary were lower still.

And if I had made it to university I may have found that my “full” bursary was actually R50 000 short.

If this other “me” looked across the multiverse to see me here, and realised that their dreams had died simply because this country’s powerful are far too comfortable with the status quo …

Well … I think I would’ve burned down a whole lot of shit by now.

Andrew Verrijdt is a psychologist, writer, UCT student, and privileged white guy, based in Cape Town.

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    • SmilingElephant

      What an insult to poor people.
      You propagate the false notion that they would “burn down a whole lot of shit…” because of their supposed frustrations.
      Matter of fact, the people doing the burning down are rather rich, like Brian Molefe’s son at UCT, just for example. He must be REALLY frustrated at all the HUGE obstacles in his life…!

    • Roland Paterson-Jones

      I did. And a student loan.

    • Claire Ceruti

      That’s *expenditure*, not investment Boo. That’s money spent on buying equipment manufactured in other countries and maintaining and moving soldiers around.

    • Claire Ceruti

      Whereas your kids had to put brothers and sisters through school and raise a whole family up with them through their chance to go to university while sleeping in a lecture theatre? Hmmm no, i didn’t think that was your kids, who are obviously not waiting tables to pay for their studies because then you’d know that the average waiter doesn’t net thousands in a night and the average student digs costs quite a bit more than a waiter can earn in a month. No you didn’t have to say race, it was just there, like it is in every corner of south africa despite white people’s protests to the contrary.

    • Claire Ceruti

      Yes Perry, I read their demands. We have similar demands. I also read the long and frustrating correspondence between them and the management in in the two weeks preceding the burning in which the management breaks every commitment it makes to negotiate. Have you read it? (By the way can i suggest a good dictionary that will explain non-sequitur properly to you. But ag shame nevermind, your english is actually otherwise quite good. 😉

    • russ

      Perhaps voting out a horribly corrupt government may have helped ? Many billions have been squandered over two decades . If one keeps voting a corrupt govt in how do you expect a different approach to honest governance . What has the govt done to improve existing tertiary institutions in 20 years ? How many new tertiary institutions have been built by the government in the last 20 years during our best years of revenue collection but worst years of theft and corruption. Simply blaming whites and Rhodes is academically bankrupt but man , it is easy politically convenient and populist .

    • Mark Linderoth

      Work at a coal face for over twenty years, suffering abuse and watching stress eat away at your health, only so you can keep paying the rent and get a girl, then you may understand how a great many people in SA, who contribute to TAX, which finances the ‘outraged’ students, feel. But hey, I’m sounding like a bitter old man, unable to adapt to the new status quo, whose opinion is therefore twisted by the vagaries of fate. Nope. Life has taught me true empathy, not the psychotic jangle of self grandisement through self entitled righteousness. I will always be wrong, and my good deeds arise to nothing, because I am a little white speck in the maelstrom of the black rewriting of history. And seriously, I really don’t mind. I’m glad for it. At the moment I’m just so happy I’m not at work.

    • Perry Dace

      Really? That’s the level you want to engage at?

    • Boo

      expenditure and investment run parallel to each other, you cannot invest without spending, this is basic economics. the fact that we buy equipment manufactured in other countries is of no relevance, we do buy parts and put them together in SA. This still stimulates the economy greatly. the point is *expenditure* stimulates investment in certain areas, this investment amounts to the creation of new arms technology which then gets sold to countries around the world, stimulating our economy greatly. im not pro war, and im not happy about the fact that 2% only goes to higher education, but at the end of the day the main things killing our country is corruption. and the quest for retaining power.

    • Claire Ceruti

      Let’s try for some comprehension here instead of just quoting from the economics textbook, ok Boo? ‘You can’t invest without spending…’ doesn’t mean that you can’t spend without investing. If anything, military expenditure is dampening (and therefore recognised in some economic circles as a way to offset falling rates of profit) because it is not expenditure on *productive* inputs (machines, raw materials etc). It is taking value out of circulation. You would get a little bit of stimulation from soldiers spending their wages, but you could get that by paying people in any sector. Buying a pre-assembled Corvette doesn’t by itself stimulate anything here

    • Claire Ceruti

      No not really, but I have an annoying tendency to sink to the level of the person I’m engaging with