When Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) commander-in-chief Julius Malema arrived to give an address at the Tshwane University of Technology main campus in the wake of the 2015 Student Representative Council elections, the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) disrupted the meeting, arguing that the EFF had not booked the venue. In all radical traditions, and in keeping with the spirit of the Freedom Charter, opening the university to radical and diverse views is a significant part of its own transformation. Rather than trying to police access to university premises, Sasco should have, in keeping with radical traditions, listened to what Malema had to say then taken to the stage to robustly argue the points.
Instead, in front of the police and campus security, Sasco members assaulted their way into an EFF public meeting, pushing towards the stage where Malema was about to give his address. Malema said: “Fighters attack.” The result was that ordinary students, as well as EFF members, pushed back and managed to shove Sasco members to the fringes. Relegated to the outskirts of the large crowd, Sasco members then resorted to throwing stones, injuring both students and journalists alike. Still, the police arrested no one.
Many painted this event as “black-on-black violence”, saying Malema’s call for fighters to attack showed a lack of black consciousness. In this piece I will argue that this is a debilitating statement to make to black activists; that they must not defend themselves when attacked by other blacks because they hold a different political view. It denies the right to violent self-defence for activists of decolonisation; in fact they are advised to “run away”.
This argument says that when engaged in the struggle for decolonisation, or the liberation of black people, you must never be violent to other blacks. This is because the objective is to unite blacks, thus, when they attack you run away. This is flawed on many levels, the least of which is that it treats blacks as homogeneous and this goes against all of Steve Biko’s work on the black condition and how we must engage in the politics of decolonisation.