Read of the Week

Breaking A Rainbow, Building A Nation

Rekgotsofetse Chikane

Picador Africa

Review: Lindiwe Mlandu

Much has been written about the #FeesMustFall protests which broke out at various universities when thousands of students embarked on mass action, demanding free education.

One of the protesters, Rekgotsofetse Chikane, has written a book titled Breaking a Rainbow, Building a Nation, detailing his experience.

Chikane starts off by addressing the elephant in the room. How did he, the son of Frank Chikane – one of the ANC’s stalwarts – get involved in protests?

He decided to join the protests because his father’s generation failed to hand over the baton to the younger generation. Unlike his father, he doesn’t subscribe to non-racialism.

Chikane was a student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2015. He analyses Fallism from his perspective as a self-proclaimed coconut – a term used to describe black people who went to former Model C schools.

He details how #RhodesMustFall started at UCT. The protesters wanted the statue of Cecil John Rhodes removed from the university’s campus.

UCT called for consultation which the students saw as a delaying tactic. This led to one of the protesters, Chumani Maxwele, throwing excrement on the statue.

Chikane criticises the university’s handling of the situation. He believes they were reactive.

However, he also critiques the Fallists for some of their tactics. He writes that at times students were overtaken by a mob mentality.

At the same time, he maintains if the protesters were not criminalised, they were likely to have behaved differently.

For example, an angry motorist drove over students who were blocking the road during a peaceful protest at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

The students chased after the vehicle, caught up with it and toppled it over.

Chikane is very scathing in his criticism of government’s dealing with students during the protests. He believes Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, failed to provide leadership.

He also addresses misogyny within the movement. He admits that men wanted to be the face of the movement and women had to fight for their place at the table.

The book offers great insight into the Fallism movement. It also shatters any belief of the rainbow nation. It lays bare South Africa’s inequality.