Every Generation has its Struggleby Montle Moorosi and Rob Cockcroft, images Sydelle Willow Smith / 29.03.2011
Last Saturday 20 000 learners, mainly from Khayelitsha, gathered at the Grand Parade to watch DJ Oskido and Freshlyground perform. They were decked out in school uniforms; some of them pimped them out with the addition of fitted hats and wayfarers, turned up collars and school ties fashioned as bow ties. No, this was not Mzansi’s version of the Freaknik. It was Human Rights’ Day and this was the meeting place for a march to parliament organised by Khayelitsha-based NGO Equal Education (EE).
Montle: Children don’t read Marx, so they need Melrose cheese and Oskido to get their revolution on and roll out the big black fist. Meanwhile Freshlyground isn’t exactly the kind of music that you mix molotov cocktails to. Let’s doo-be-doo like they did in Cairo.
Rob: The organisation is campaigning for Minimum Norms and Standards to be implemented by 1 April. This will stipulate the basic infrastructure that all schools should have to operate with. Scary enough some of these are as basic as libraries, laboratories and toilets. EE’s march set out to put pressure on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to uphold her promise and to aid in developing the policy.
Montle: Half of the Grand Parade has been cordoned off for the monumental event and by noon it’s filled to capacity, I march through the human-barricade at the gates with an air of importance, while pointing to the stage and saying to no one in particular that I’m EE staff.
It has been over 8 years since I got involved with anything political or engaged in communist rants since my quasi rasta pacifist art fag days in UCT. Now Moorosi’s back with a brain full of last night’s fights, last night’s grenades, still hard to love, maybe even harder. War is hell. Funnily, as I was thinking this, some kids who looked like men with earrings started to tussle, one got floored and swarmed by a group of boys in some rag tag uniforms. Hard to love. War is hell. But boys will be boys. Being there in the hot sun, in a sea of colourful young people, with my brain still buzzing, I was overwhelmed by a strange conviction or rather a little bit of self pride for toyi-toying and dancing with the rest of the merry massive.
Rob: I wrestle my way through the crowd of youths who can only be described as rambunctious. There’s a lot of “on-on” games to dodge and the danger of being pelted with water-packets, which may not be such a bad thing as it’s 35 degrees. Sweat pours, misting up my shades as I abjectly search for shade. And all I could find was Montle Moorosi dressed in denim cut off shorts, and equal education t-shirt, an RVCA cap and a sweaty but handsome puza face.
Montle: I saw Rob looking like a disheveled cucumber, the green sweat of Guiness and lager from the past week was swimming out his pores, the old siff journalist with his Bondiblu sunglasses which wrap around his thick beautiful Irish head. I gave him a pound.
“Chillin… I almost just slapped some fucken kid who threw a water packet in my face, but I couldn’t exactly hit a child, and he kinda looked liked he’d fuck me up.”
Rob: I spotted my salvation, shade, over at the press tent, which I make my way towards but it’s a mirage. I’m saved slightly, though, as I have some breathing room and sanctity next to the stage behind the metal fencing.
Dj Oskido steps up in grey trackpants and a red faded golf shirt, looking like he’s just been watching movies on the couch with a bucket of KFC chicken, and captures the crowd instantaneously. The ball-raising exhiliration of 20 000 schoolkids pushing up against the railing has me jamming unashamedly to the hypnotic house beats without a drop of alchohol in me. Oskido’s crowd is too hyper for his chilled demeanor and he warns the young’uns to simmer down. Shortly, we see a piccanin being rushed to receive medical care for a sprained ankle.
Montle: Next up was Freshlyground. I was surprised to see that the kids were actually into midget violin soul. Well, me and Rob aren’t so we decided to get a chip roll at Texies and walk off to to Parliament ahead of the march. We sat in silence as we shared the tiny chip roll, wishing we had just grabbed one of the free lunch packs EE were giving out to the learners. We finshed our date and headed for Parliament.
Rob: By the time we got there the crowd had regrouped and the atmosphere was slightly chilled, brandishing placards which read things like “My education, my future”, “Rich or poor we all need equality”, “Sports fields are needed” and “Minister Motshekga keep you promise make us happy”. But when it came time to handover the memorandum, this peaceful protest almost turned into a full-blown riot. Angie Motshekga pulled a Samuel Beckett and instead sent a Godot representative, Ingane Ngobeni, Chief of Staff for the Minister, who accepted the memorandum on her behalf. And was immediatelty booed off the stage and had a piece of bunched up newspaper thrown at him. The kids were pissed, but the organisers did a great a job to quell the tension.
“Young people in the province showed today that they have an interest in their education. They came in numbers and wanted their voices to be heard, but were disappointed that the minister didn’t show up because they wanted their elected representative to address them, not the chief of staff,” said Yoliswa Dwane, Head of Policy and Resources at EE.
Rob: They sang and toyi toyied all they way from Roeland street back to Cape Town station to catch a free ride home. And like that, it was over.
*All images © Sydelle Willow Smith.