17 October 2016, The Invalidated SANKOFA
After the arrest of five cadres in the last two weeks the following is what I have to say
It’s like I’m choking on my desire to live in a land where the law applies to its people in a way that is indicative of a justice that people died for. The reality is that my understanding of this journey for Free education is not only deepening my desire for an understanding of the law but conjuring a hunger to understand how this was worth people dying for?
In church they asked if what you are living for is worth what Jesus died for, and a year ago if you’d asked me “Kirst what is it you’re living for?” perhaps I would have paused, and my answer would have been more generic, ‘the right answer’.
You know, the usual “God, my family and my passion.”
When my cell leader asked me this my first thought was free education and I believe that Jesus would have died for it.
Which may seem extreme but what feels extreme to me is the fact that in the last two weeks I know five people who have been arrested for the exact same thing. Students. Guilty of believing only in a democratic system built to serve us.
Guilty only of believing in the law, a law that people died for not only in 1976, but over and over and over again.
What seems extreme to me is the blatant apathy of people who are able to submit assignments and focus long enough to complete them.
I left my phone for two hours today to sleep, and I fell asleep with a smile on my face because we had just recovered my cadre Jodi from jail, and I clutched her mom’s hand today in the court praying to God that she gets released.
I’ve been praying to God a lot lately and my last passionate prayer was that I hope that no one I know needs to die for this, but that if someone does die, I would be okay if it was me. This is not some noble cry- this a reality to me, that I fear for my life in this country. I am nineteen and I spend time praying that the people I know don’t die because this is my reality. Right now, I feel dead alive.
I am dead alive, I am a walking corpse, a human target ripe for the injustices of the past to resurrect its authority, starting with my body.
An authority which gripped me by the chest today as I sat holding Jodi’s moms hand in court because in that moment I was forced to realize that the cry for injustice will come at the expense of those brave enough to fight for it.
It has come at the expense of all the interdicted students not only in Stellenbosch but nationally.
I struggled to eat this weekend because I sat wondering about what Aneli and Jodi must be eating in jail, but if this is my reality, then I began to wonder about when last Masixole’s mom ate. When her son is sitting in Pollsmoor prison for believing in this country, believing that every citizen should have a right to participate as more than a second class citizen. Sharing a cell with people who have actively chosen to defy a law that he has chosen to fight for. I wondered how she has been managing to eat. I wondered how he has been managing to eat.
I sat wondering how people died for a justice system which is being used to smother and silence people in way that looks exactly like Apartheid to me.
Being black in Stellenbosch is to be dead alive, alive to injustice. Alive to pervasive reminders that your presence is engineered for statistical purposes. Alive to the reality that mental illnesses are going to destroy some of the people you know. Alive to the reality that the biological composition of your body has subjected you to a life time of different oppressions and truths which you would rather have been ignorant to.
Dead to the legal system, your voice black child has died a morose death falling upon the ears of those who wished that they had impressed Apartheid more greatly upon your parents- because then ignoring your cries would be easier.
Alive to the reality that free education would mean more voices being empowered in spaces constructed upon your exclusion.
Alive to the possibility that in ten years’ time it will not be exceptional for there to be more than two black graduates in a family.
Alive to the possibility that your children will not be living to get a degree for their family but for themselves.
Alive to the possibility that black tax will not be a burden sitting on your children’s shoulders when they write exams or cannot access their marks due to insufficient funds.
Alive to the possibility that your children will not have poor relatives.
Alive to the possibility that we can have one of the greatest countries in the world.
Dead to the dream of being part of a nation in which you are allowed to exist without any calls being made to struggle to achieve the dream of a life breathed into your bones after 1994. The dream of no call being made in the fibre of your being, to be the person your parents raised you to be- one who fights against injustice.
Dead to being able to ignore the call to become part of the struggle.
Alternatively ignoring this call and becoming dead to yourself and alive in an assimilation which aims to weaken the very essence of your being, your history vibrating in every cell, re-written in history books by people who lived to oppress you.
And lately I don’t know what scares me more, the death or the life because being alive and awakened to your blackness in Stellenbosch means being in a perpetual state of violence.
Violence both internally and externally.
Violent to be 19 sitting in a court room, choking back tears, mourning the promise of a democracy- dead to you now. A democracy that encouraged you enough to become a lawyer.
Violent- to walk into residence and listen to people talk about “those violent protestors”, suffocating beneath the arrogance of that statement being made in the most peaceful campus in the country. “Those violent protestors” who have become your family, because only they can understand the violence of having your bodies dragged and beaten to the point of unconsciousness in a library after having sat peacefully asking to be engaged with.
Only “those violent protestors” can understand the violence of having the narrative scripted to be called a ‘scuffle’ because it didn’t feel like a scuffle to me, lying on the ground, pouring milk onto my unconscious friends’ face, burnt by pepper spray. Violent to have dragged the limp body of one of my friends, lying on the ground, after calling out their name and seeing your hand shake, reaching towards them hoping that they aren’t dead. Violent to have lost your appetite since that time.
Violent to not be able to remember the last time you ate. Violent to not be able to distinguish if the faintness you feel is as a result thereof, or the arrest of another one of your family members.
"those violent protestors" people I've fallen in love with, people who have the capacity to change the face of our nation to one which we as South Africans would be proud to recognize.
Violent to constantly explain your desire to live in a country in which people are allowed to believe in free education without the brutalization of our bodies being a justified response.
Violent to listen to people retell you what they believe to have happened to you because of what they read in “Die Matie” or saw on twitter.
Violent to be invalidated when you were there, without the luxury of watching Facebook videos from the safety of your room.
Violent to be invalidated when you lay on the floor at 3AM with one of your cadres, knowing that it’s better to be comatose drunk than to remember the sound of a stunt grenade explode next to you.
Violent to be called stupid when you choose to believe in a nation in which all people are afforded equal opportunity to better themselves. Violent to hear the people you love choke out their biggest fear- that they cannot fight any longer in a place which hunts us down like believing in the constitution is illegal. Worth being victimized and criminalized.
Violent to listen to people laugh because it feels difficult to smile lately, because how can you smile when the people you believe in are ripped off the streets and pulled into police vehicles on the way to the mall. Violent to understand that your biological composition has determined that your life does not belong to you, but to your ancestors who fought before you and your children who will come after you.
Violent to be subjected to people’s dangerous apathy verbalized in perpetual criticism of the methods of the movement, by the same people who are silent to the brutalization and victimization of students.
Violent to look over your shoulder every day, knowing that your face lies in a docket on a desk in Admin B, mulled over by the secret security and police force. Both of whom are present, taking pictures while you await your jailed cadres release.
Violent to know these men are stationed where you live.
Violent to know that you are being tracked, followed and ultimately hunted for believing in a country that your people died for.
Violent to know that only some are afforded the privilege of dreaming without being victimized. Violent to know that only some people in this country are afforded the luxury of enjoying the liberties of being a South African. Violent to understand that no one cares now but in ten years’ time, they will be comfortable to lie and tell their children that they fought next to you for free education. Violent to understand that statues are valued more than black voices.
Violent to know that this article alone could lead to my death, arrest or suspension.
Violent to know that even that knowledge is not enough to stop me or my cadres, violent to wish otherwise.
In closing I hope this made you desperately uncomfortable, because that desperate discomfort you just felt is how some of your fellow colleagues, friends or lovers fell every day. I hope this made you think, re-evaluate the position you’ve assumed because in ten years’ time it will be too late to rescript your involvement of the narrative of this moment.
17 October 2016, The Invalidated SANKOFA