Fees protests songs cast spotlight on struggle heroes

By Neo Motloung

The on-going university protests in the country have been accompanied by the singing of liberation or struggle songs.

Students have been chanting names of struggle heroes to illustrate their dissatisfaction with the current government for having deserted the ideals of these departed icons.

Independent political analyst, Enoch Maponya, says the Fees Must Fall demonstrators make reference to the iconic struggle heroes like Solomon Mahlangu, Steve Biko and Oliver Tambo in their protest songs because they feel the current government has moved away from what the struggle was all about.

"When they sing struggle songs referring to Oliver Tambo, Solomon Mahlangu and others [it's] because there is a thinking that people stood for free education, nationalization of mines as contained in the Freedom Charter in particular," says Maponya.

He adds demonstrators are singing these under the belief that the current government has lead the state into corruption and money which has been abused and lost to corruption could have been used to fund free education.

Solomon Mahlangu

Demonstrators across the country have in particular been chanting the name of Solomon Mahlangu predominantly in their protests for free education.

Maponya says Mahlangu is widely viewed as a youth struggle icon.

"The current youth thinks what is happening is not what Mahlangu struggled and died for."

Wits students have taken the national anthem written by Enoch Sontonga during the apartheid regime and related it to the current struggles students are facing nationally.

The song has been deemed the 'Fees Must Fall National Anthem.' Listen to the Fees Must Fall National Anthem 'Nkosi Sikelel' below:

historic context

Unisa Political Science Lecturer, Doctor Dirk Kotzé, says current student movements want to align the current student struggle to the historic context.

Kotzé adds that the referencing of struggle heroes in the Fees Must Fall movement gives the students not only motivation but a sense that they are part of the struggle that these heroes fought for.

Each student organisation brings to the movement struggle icons that are affiliated to their political organisation, says Kotzé.

"That is why for instance South African Students Congress (Sasco) and the youth league will concentrate on the Solomon Mahlangu song, while Nkosi Sikelel' is more for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)."

He adds other student movements close to the African National Congress (ANC) would sing songs referring to Oliver Tambo.

“Each one of them is using their own tradition and history and the songs representing that history,” says Kotzé.