Jacob Zuma has just announced there will be no increase in university tuition fees following the Fees Must Fall protest. Adreinne Waheed documented the protest just hours before the president made his announcement.
The ANC PR machine went into overdrive trying to claim students’ victory as their own. They even attempted to change the hashtag.
Adreinne Waheed’s images capture the essence of protest in an African city, more specifically, Johannesburg, the economic capital of South Africa. The protest against university fees increase is a highly contested issue in a country with a young democracy after suppression of the worst kind before – and still after – the 1994 elections.
The ANC, as the ruling party, has not delivered on many fronts.
At a large scale, the city as a stage set for political protest, conjures up memories of Ancient Rome, as Caesars fought for power and centurions crushed rebellious masses.
Soweto, the backdrop for the 1976 uprising, featured Sam Nzima’s historic photograph of Hector Pieterson’s dead body carried by another student. The years that followed featured Johannesburg and South Africa as the backdrop in the long battle to overcome apartheid.
Universities then, as they are now, were the home of the intellectual force behind the protest. I recall many days arriving as a student at Wits with police and troops flanking Yale Road; we jokingly suggested they should apply for parking permits, knowing full well that clashes would follow. In those times, the feared vehicle of oppression was known as the Kaspir.
Adreinne’s powerful images are filled with colour and subtle details of buildings in crisp dry African light, in great detail as the masses whirl against each other. The human body as a mechanism of protest is shown in closer images, both the dance of protest and the passive figure of a woman lying on the ground, using her fragile body as a weapon against oppression.
This brave, brilliant body of work captures a very powerful moment, posing serious questions 21 years after the birth of a young democracy.
And don’t think we’ve heard the end of this. With the economy still creaking to a halt and a party that doesn’t represent the aspirations of the young, this is only the beginning.
View our video of what happened when we asked students what they were fighting for.