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OPINION: The new student revolution

My heart is heavy. We are going through tough times in South Africa. Racial tensions have been boiling for some time now. Government has been preaching non-racialism for the past 20 years as if that would solve inequality. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. University students are at the forefront of what some are calling a post-1994 revolution.

Black students from various universities across the country have decided that enough is enough. They've taken matters into their own hands. They've realised that government has no intention of providing leadership. For the past few months, students have been making their voices heard by protesting against exclusion and the lack of transformation, among other things.

Yesterday I watched video footage of black students being assaulted after they stormed a rugby field at the University of Free State. Their aim was to grab the attention of vice-chancellor Professor Jonathan Jansen. They wanted to talk to him about an end to the outsourcing of staff. Alas, they were met with violence from white students and other spectators who came off the grandstands.

Some people have criticised the protesters, saying they got what they deserved for disrupting the game. It's important to note they stormed the field during halftime. They went in and formed a circle and started singing before they were attacked.

Like many South Africans, I watch these events from a distance. I have nothing profound to offer because I feel like this is not our fight. By 'our', I mean those who've been assimilated into the system. We've faced the same challenges and did nothing to change them. We only focused on getting through because we didn't think we had the power to do anything.

Even if I was still at varsity, I'm not sure I would be taking part in the #FeesMustFall, #RhodesMustFall, #EndOutsourcing, #UFSShutdown or #UPBlackMonday protests. Because I'm a coward. I have yet to challenge the status quo.

On the language issue, I didn't attend an institution that had a dual-language policy. I don't know what it feels like to have classes divided between English and Afrikaans. So I can't speak on the experiences of students from the University of Pretoria or Stellenbosch University. I have no business telling them how to approach the issue.

What I know is these students are braver that those of us who did nothing to change things. Therefore, I have not earned the right to speak or critique their activism. They've done something that most of us have failed to do, which is to stand up for what we believe in. So I can't tell them how to conduct themselves.

I'll just stay on my lane and watch as the events unfold before my eyes. I'll curl up into a ball when I see images of black bodies being dragged by private security and police on various campuses. I'll hold back the tears when I read tweets about how some white parents drove to the University of Free State to arm their children. And I dare not preach to the student activists about the rainbow nation, which is clearly a farce.

Lindiwe Mlandu is a member of the Eyewitness News team in Cape Town. Follow her on Twitter: @LindiweMl

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