In 2015, a protest of a statue of British industrialist John Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town sparked the largest student uprising in South Africa since the fall of apartheid in 1994. The movement blossomed into an ongoing, nationwide struggle for economically accessible education and a curriculum shift acknowledging the lasting scars left by European colonialism and state sanctioned racism of the Apartheid state. This movement came to be known as Fees Must Fall.
The movement has made notable strides: it’s resulted in the introduction of revolutionary graduated funding schemes, revision of curricula to acknowledge the lasting scars of European colonialism and apartheid, a temporary governmental freeze on tuition increases and scattered efforts to improve benefits and rights for university staff.
Towards those goals, however, there have been dramatic and often sordid side effects: ‘the fees debate’ has resulted in the shut down of nearly all major universities, countless violent clashes between students and private security forces, mass marches and demonstrations, striking faculty and staff, millions of rand in property damage, bombings, alleged murder of student leaders, hundreds of legal battles, political endorsements. Perhaps most importantly, the movement sparked a national conversation, which descended upon South African society like the clouds perpetually shrouding Table Mountain. Snippets of this conversation could be overheard across the country and its tightly kept social echelons; bustling taxi ranks, at tuck shops in remote villages, in Jo’burg offices, hip Cape Town cafes, among attendants at petrol stations, floating on a cloud of dagga smoke at a Soweto pool hall, and amidst the clink of glasses at a posh Stellenbosch winery.
The debate didn’t permeate into the world news arena, which at the time, was dominated by the burgeoning Trump campaign and the EU’s Brexit fluster.
Megan Zerez began documenting the movement in 2016.
Making Science Equitable, Jan 2018
A Woman’s Place in the Revolution, April 2017
March on Parliament, Oct 26 2016