“Sindane, sing”, the comrade nudges. Six months ago I would, without a shred of hesitation, blurt out into song and have all comrades follow when I proudly chant ukuthi “i-Insourcing iyasebenzelwa” but today, an excuse springs up; “Ai mina macom my throat is sore, futhi I’m not feeling too well.”
That is precisely what happens when self-doubt creeps in. Suddenly, you stop doing things that you are good at and ultimately you disengage from the struggle, or this is at least what I think. On the eve of my 23rd birthday in the year 2015 we began staging rolling mass actions in all of Unisa’s campuses countrywide demanding that the university abolish the privatisation of labour of the most exploited class or sector of black workers (or what social media has correctly coined #OutsourcingMustFall ).
Although there have been strategic victories to date, many of which I am personally proud of; there have been setbacks too. The major setback is that close to 200 black security guards and cafeteria workers have since been fired by their respective employers owing to their participation in the mass action. The latter (29) were sacked recently by Fedics catering services after they (the exploited black workers) refused to be moved to a workstation outside of Unisa premises with the correct argument that moving them away from Unisa will prevent them from benefitting from insourcing when the day arrives. They have been in the cold and without a job for over a month now. The former (+-189), were sacked by Red Alert Security and Cleaning Company for allegedly participating in violent activities.
Their matter is worse because they have been without a job since March this year (6 months). Apart from these comrades who have been fired, there are still many comrades who work other outsourced service providers contracted by Unisa who continue to be victimized in the most painful way you can imagine. Today the date is 22nd of September 2016 and not a single worker has been insourced. Not even one.
This is against the backdrop of having been subjected to the university’s disciplinary committee on two separate occasions and getting arrested a total of 3 times between the period of January and April whilst protesting on campus. In between we have been physically beaten by the newly contracted tactical reaction unit of military-like security whom we are told were brought in by management solely to “deal with” us. We have had endless meetings with technocrats of the university at a forum of stakeholders tasked with looking into the implementation of insourcing.
These meetings have not yielded any tangible result. We have tabled proposal after proposal and all of them have been rejected by both executive management and as well as university council. The most recent rejection was perhaps the most heart-breaking. Here the chairperson of council, Mr Sakhi Simelane labelled our proposal for insourcing as one that “doesn’t make business sense.” Excuse me for sounding bitter but for the better part of this struggle for insourcing we have been at pains to explain to everybody, and especially to the powers that be in the university, that our calls for Insourcing is a call for social justice and redress, for him to come and claim that it doesn’t make business sense confirms that we might have failed in showing them that the current set-up exposes the black child to the crudest form of exploitation.
I will not even speak about sour relations between myself and the vice-chancellor, Professor Mandla Makhanya. It is safe to say that his poor conduct and lack of leadership from the first day of protests to date has been devastatingly underwhelming. I have lost all respect I used to have for the man. There is nothing black or liberational or working class about him. When his people needed him to step in and provide solutions, he remained aloof and allowed things to spiral out of control by opting to support the sacking and purging of many of those who raised the flag for the quest to insource.
It was going to be better to be at crossroads because there at least you still have the choice between different roads to take. With crossroads, the emotion that creeps up is confusion and perhaps even a bit of tension among the travellers but with the Red Sea situation, the emotion that rears its ugly head is that of self-doubt. Recall that Moses, in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and upon hearing that Pharaoh’s army was charging not far behind them, had the option of two roads and because of reasons known to him, he chose the narrow road which was unknown to everybody, including himself. This road was the one that finally led them to the Red Sea.
The situation on the beach was that of doom and gloom because the entire group knew that they were stuck. On the one hand, if they turn back they will definitely be recaptured and perhaps even killed by Pharaoh’s men and on the other hand, the sea in its vastness stood in front of them and without sails and ferries, there was no way for them to cross over into the next dry land. Put yourself in the shoes of Moses, imagine his anguish, imagine his pain, imagine his sombre loneliness at the sight of hundreds of thousands of Israelites who are looking at him for all the answers, imagine and abstractly rebuild Moses’ psychology. That is exactly where we are!
Of course, at a later stage, God intervened and the Red Sea miraculously opened. The children of Israel entered and the rest is history. Because we are activist who are guided by the revolutionary spirit of Onkgopotse Tiro, Tsietsi Mashinini, Steve Biko and other stalwarts of our struggle, we know that the Red Sea at Unisa will eventually open up and the toiling masses of our people will walk onto dry land.
The self-doubt and all the emotions that come with the Red Sea moment will not lead us into despondency. Like a phoenix from the ashes, we owe it to ourselves to rise above and continue waging the struggle with the same attitude, drive and willpower as we have been since November 2015.
Manzi vuleka singene!
* Sindane is a member of the EFF Student Command (EFFSC) and a student activist. He is a final year LLB Student and an African Communist.