Zubeida Jaffer, award winning South African journalist, discussed how student movements push society forward in a conversation with Rhodes University Journalism students on Tuesday. Jaffer was integral in the Anti-Apartheid struggle movement.
“[Students] push the boundaries, “said Jaffer to an eager class of third year writing and editing students. She explained that older folk are often set in their old ways. “You need a student movement in any society to take society forward, “she said.
Jaffer recalled how hard people, including students, fought for basic rights during Apartheid. But she explained that the current protests are different to those in the past. “Right now [the protests] are about creating the kind of home we want. Back then it was about getting our home back, “she reflected.
“Comparing today’s society with the Apartheid society is like comparing cheese and chalk.” The main difference, she indicated, was that the Apartheid state was an authoritarian police state. “Today we [South Africa] have a lot of mess, but it’s not the same”.
During Apartheid, Jaffer was detained for two months after publishing an article which named 42 protesters whom had been shot by the Apartheid police. During this time she was tortured and beaten. She kept writing, however, and was detained again 5 years later.
Having a politically active background, Jaffer had been concerned about the lack of student movements over the past twenty years, and was excited when the student protests began towards the end of last year.
“[Students] push the boundaries”
“Broadly I think [the student protests] have been fantastic. It creates a space where people can become critical about society,” Jaffer mused, “You don’t just come to university to get a degree”.
Jaffer does not support any violence or destruction that accompanies the protests, but conceded that there are ‘always people saying crazy things’ during times of protest and political unrest.
She hopes the student movement will develop and grow. “I’m hoping that students come together – politics aside – and come up with objectives or philosophies that people can get behind. It’s your turn now,” she beamed.
To learn more about Jaffer and her reporting and insights, visit her website here.