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OPINION: Fees Must Fall: ‘Students? Jolling? F**k them’

I was going to be philosophical and write this week's column on Barack Obama and catching all the feels because he's exiting the Oval. But after a quick visit to Dubai Superette, my local, I changed my mind.

The Obama effect can wait.

Remember Champions toffees? Those square toffees you only got at local cafés in small suburbs where they don't have any big chain stores? I don't mean fancy-ass cafés that serve coffee made from the poop of angels, I mean a café that you pronounce caf-fee, one of those corner stores where you can find anything from an apple, to an arm sling, to bookends etc.

Well, I came across those toffees at Dubai Superette in Sea Point a couple of weeks ago. An entire container of the fruit punch flavor, the pink ones. I think I was the sole consumer of all of them over the next few days. I haven't sugar binged on sweets in about three years, but now, I'm happy and all that, so I have become a creature of comfort, and probably, soon, a creature of diabetes too.

Now the thing about Champions toffees is this: When I was growing up, if they were hard and you had to suck on them and really earn the chew, they were considered fresh. If they were soft and chewy already, they were thought of as stale, like they had been lying around too long or something.

I always liked the softer ones. Immediate gratification, straight into the chew. You can also hoover them a lot faster that way. So, for me, the softer the better. Another thing you should know is that the most common and popular variety of this toffee is the one that comes in a black wrapper. The Original flavor. And trust me, good as it is, it is definitely original in taste.

As a grownup, whenever I have come across these sweets, they were always Original. Not at Dubai. Oh no. Here I found my favourite, pink, pillow variety of chewy childhood and ate it all. I gave the store some time to stock up, and just before writing this column, I obviously went back for more.

Near where I live in Sea Point, there are about 3 or 4 of these stores in either direction. But I always go to this one. I just like it. It's always interesting and it's always stocked. They even have a great selection of women's hygiene products. If you go to a 24-hour fancy pants gas station you get a pad the size of a mattress for a family of 5-sharing or one type of tampon. I mean which market are they stocking for? Melanie Griffith in Working Girl circa 1980-without wings? I honestly think Dubai Superette is one of the few stores that actually have a bigger variety of period products than condoms. They were at this stage, anyway.

Dubai is owned by an Ethiopian couple and the guy who is mostly behind the counter smiles nicely, the woman is a firecracker, and I am charmed, intrigued and very afraid of her. It's cool.

They keep their newspapers on a little stand right at the door. It leans into the pavement sometimes, almost falling out. Easily accessible. It's not uncommon to pay for your stuff at the counter and have some passerby leer over to read the headlines.

On this particular evening, a vagrant - (can I say vagrant? What's a politically correct term for vagrant? I do just like the way the word vagrant sounds, it makes me sound heaps educated). Anyway… this ou was reading The Daily Voice newspaper. He was so engaged in the coverage about the student protests that he was basically in a relationship with the two-page spread.

I stood at the counter waiting for my card to be processed and tried to listen closer as this guy gave commentary on what he was reading. Then, all of a sudden: " Students!" Clicks tongue. "Jolling? F**K them!" The shop owner and I exchanged a laugh through osmosis while my PIN was okayed by the machine. We both knew what he meant. That is: Messing around while I can't afford to even buy this damn paper? Must be nice!

"He's very serious. Thinks he's a professor", the shop owner explained. He didn't mean it in a patronising way at all. In fact, I kind of got the idea that this wasn't the first time they shared a space together.

Anyway, the professor, tobacco smoke clinging to him, stompie burning out in his street-facing hand, continued reading. Then again to himself, he said: "So this is what it is, hey? So to speak, how do they say? To be political? This is what it looks like?" Clicks tongue. "Well f*k hulle."

The utterances, (aimed at the students), started to land hard and fast. He shouted a number of other profanities of the Cape Town assortment. This was all very humorous and entertaining, endearing even, but it was also very honest and enlightening. With all the experts, activists, and politicians shouting about this, we're not hearing the voice of people like this guy - the forgotten generation, the "silent" ones. We're not even trying to hear them. By societal norms, his opinion (Fees must fall? Students messing shit up. What's their problem? Why are they so ungrateful?), is probably going to be seen as controversial, but when you look at life through his eyes, he, in particular, does have a point.

I love going to this store. They're open until eleven. It's a stone's throw away. You can get anything there. You can even have your cellphone fixed there. And most importantly, sometimes, the couple's kid is with them. They have the most gorgeous son. He hates me. I think it's because I use the word vagrant. I think he can sense it. I don't blame him.

The caf-fee didn't have toffees by the way, but damn, that guy, that professor, what a champion.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is employed by Code For Africa at the head office in Cape Town as programme manager for impactAFRICA - the continent's largest fund for digital-driven data storytelling. She is a regular commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment. Follow her on Twitter: @sageofabsurd

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