By: Mfungelwa “Funkie” Sithole
Date: 27 June 2016
Photo: Aerial views of a burning Atteridgeville from the EWN chopper on Tuesday morning.
From a distance you could see the blue skies turning darker and darker. You would swear that time was suddenly accelerated and day was quickly becoming night. Immediately there was a sense of panic brewing from the sight of the dark clouds, turned out the roots of a tree were ablaze. At closer scrutiny, one could perceive that the trunk held the fuel necessary for the fire that was emanating from the people’s anger. It was as the roots kept on burning that the fire rose to the trunk, with the leaves acting as the tree’s pores, emitting the deadly black smoke.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a class about fire safety, then you will know that the first thing you do when you are on fire is to “Stop, Drop and Roll” in order to prevent the fire from spreading all over your body. The tree must have not been aware that it was on fire as it stood tall with its roots firmly securing it to the ground beneath it, totally unaware of the smokescreen blinding it from the fire. Our nation, like the tree has not realised it is on fire hence it has not “Stopped, Dropped and Rolled”.
As if acting in sync, the rage of many pupils exploded and bang, we found ourselves on fire. The ground was set alight by the people’s discontentment fuelled by their anger. They had been silent for far too long and couldn’t standby any longer. They couldn’t breathe as the lies and false promises had blocked their airways. They had spoken about and even spoken around the issue but, it still remained unchanged.
Frank Mukhaswakule Primary at Mashau village in Vuwani, Limpopo, was burnt on May 4 2016 — picture: Sandile Ndlovu
The people had explored the entire process of lobbying which is a non-violent manner of dealing with issues. They identified and discussed the issues with no solutions arising. It was there and then that a common feeling of being deprived developed amongst the masses. Then as if the crowds all knew that those in power only understand the language of power, protests erupted as a means to push for solutions to the issues at hand. Since those in power left the status quo unchanged, the protest evolved into an uprising. Not this was the kind that resulted in the deliberate attack of those public instruments which hold power. It was the kind that warrants a swoop in of the military in order to kill all that moves.
In the early hours of Monday morning of the 16 of May 2016, The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Sanlam Auditorium had been set alight. The university has been spending millions on campus security since the 2015 #FeesMustFall protest to improve campus safety. Even after millions of rands worth of security was deployed, such an event still occurred. We could look at this fire on a micro-level and just say it’s just few arsonists burning down university property but is it?
The recent #UjOnFire is a small piece of a big picture. Like UJ, the country is spending millions and millions of rand’s on security but, still the country is faced with instability. These fires are revolutionary flames that display the people’s discontent. It has reached a point where they have had enough with the institutionalised oppression the have to overcome, daily. In the face of such oppression, one has to liberate himself and what better way of liberating yourself than burning downs the system that oppresses you?
Photo of burnt UJ’s Sanlam Auditorium by Anne-Marie Beukes via Facebook.
The University of Johannesburg wasn’t the first nor the lost institution to be set alight. It has been a short year but, it has been on fire. The following fires have already happened this year alone:
- #VuwaniSchoolsOnFire – The people set schools on fire in order to lobby the government to move them back to their old municipality.
- #VUTonFire – On Wednesday, 11 May 2016, Students from Vaal University of Technology burn buildings in protest over their safety on Campus
- #WitsOnFire – On Monday, 04 April 2016, Witwatersrand lecture hall on fire
- #NWUOnFire – The Mahikeng Campus of the North West University on Wednesday, 24 February 2016 over the inauguration of the SRC.
- The list is endless with other universities such as, UKZN, UL, TUT, UWC, Fort Hare, Zulu Land, Walter Sisulu and so forth having their own episodes of protest action turning into arson attempts.
Violence is always the last resort for people who have reached a point where all peaceful means have been exhausted. It is when a people feel they are backed up against the wall and the only way forward is to fight for their survival. The situation has reached crisis point with most public violence attempts aimed at bringing “power” to its knees to address the status quo. At this point in time, the fire that burns the tree has spread from the trunk to the branches leaving the leaves enveloped by the now darker cloud of smoke.
The fire could have been stopped at the roots but, our denial has led to a point where we are burning. The unresolved issues have the people burning inside and the day the anger explodes again, it will surely burn the whole nation. So we are a #ANationOnFire, we just have not realised it yet
About the Contributor
Mfungelwa “Funkie” Sithole is a Co-founder of Awakened Minds, an entrepreneur & a poet. He is a Pan Africanist who writes in his own capacity.