Like many South Africans I am perplexed by the scale of violence and aggression accompanying the protests by university students. While I sympathise with their grievances and think more should be done to liberalise access to tertiary education I struggle to find justification for the wanton destruction of university property and the levels of animosity directed against certain racial groups. I am convinced that the #FeesMustFall movement has lost its way and has now been hijacked by those who thrive on lawlessness and hooliganism.
The wearing of t-shirts emblazoned with words like ‘I hate whites’ shows that there is a sinister hand at play within what started as legitimate student concerns. As Christians we need to be alert to this and see that the agenda is bigger than what we realise. The chaotic scenes we have seen play out in our nation’s parliament are making it obvious that there are groups that have a vested interest in a dysfunctional South Africa.
I want to suggest that it is such groups that have infiltrated the students and are now busy with an agenda to radicalise them. It saddens me that some Christians have also been conscripted to such agendas and are now comfortable with the idea of using violence to achieve political and social ends. Violence is never the answer even though South Africa is getting obsessed with it. I was impressed by an article by Sunday Times columnist Barney Mthombothi who addressed the issue of violence and looting that accompanies many of our protests.
The article was published in November 2015 but it is so relevant; it is as if it was published last week. In it Mthombothi recalls a meeting between former president Nelson Mandela and a delegation from Bushbuckridge. Prior to the meeting Bushbuckridge was engulfed by violence and destruction with residents protesting against their town being incorporated into Limpopo. During the meeting Mandela asked the protest leaders to explain who would pay for the damage caused during their protest.
When the answer was not forthcoming Mandela sent them away and invited them to contact him again when they had the answer. They had travelled hundreds of kilometres and took months to arrange the meeting but Mandela taught them a lesson on accountability. Did Mandela’s values die with him? I hope not and in fact if this country is truly majority Christian then values of tolerance, love and forgiveness should be aplenty.
Our problem as Christians is that we do not allow our witness and light to become visible but I am hoping that a planned prayer gathering at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University will change this. I will later report on this and other solidarity initiatives that the Christian community in Nelson Mandela Bay have planned for our local university. Let us remain vigilant lest we lose ground to forces that want to extinguish the light of Christ in South Africa.