A recently-formed student movement, Students 4 Democracy, joined an assembly of civil organisations who met at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus calling for President Jacob Zuma to resign over the weekend.
Students featured in the event which organisers called “the People’s Assembly” which had 72 organisations in attendance. These groups included faith-based organisations, civil society groups and activists and trade unions.
Speaking under the theme ‘Why Young People Are Concerned about Our Young Democracy’, chairperson of Wits Students for Law and Social Justice Naledi Mahooa said that it is a concern for a generation of young people to see democracy undermined by people who were on the frontier of its establishment.
“If we understand that pre-1994 was the struggle of our mothers and fathers, if we understand that the Solomon Mahlangu’s, [Nelson] Mandela’s and Winnie [Madikizela-Mandela]’s played their role then we are fully aware that the poisons that threaten democracy such as corruption are our struggles,” said Mahooa.
Mahooa and the assembly called for the resignation of Zuma following a Constitutional Court judgement that said he had failed in his oath to uphold the constitution.
“Right now the first step is to demand that our president do the honourable thing and resign from his office,” said Mahooa.
But some students wanted more than just Zuma’s resignation. Speaking to over a thousand attendees on the floor, North West University student Genius Dlangalala said it would be futile for the assembly to merely call for president’s resignation while leaving “his oppressive system intact”.
“We must remove the root of the rot, which is the capitalist system,” said Dlangalala.
The assembly agreed to several resolutions including the launch of a “rolling mass action” on April 27, Freedom Day, at Beyers Naude Square in Johannesburg as well as organise protests across the country demanding Zuma resign.
The assembly would also seek out other organisations to work with to demand that Zuma step down.
In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela, Mahooa acknowledged the divisions amongst students on demanding the end of Zuma’s time as the president. She said that some students who are loyal to the ANC may feel that the call for Zuma to step down may be misunderstood as an attack on the party.