Rhodes University students were able to brave rain for an encounter with Julius Malema in the hopes of showing that they did not want the Rhodes University name to change yet an anti-name change march held hours earlier had less than 15 people present. Thandi Bombi reports
Julius Malema walked out towards the eager crowd. As some students pushed their way closer, others fought to keep the place they had remained in for almost three hours just to see the man in person. Disregarding the crowd, Malema walked on, got into his car and drove away, leaving students in despair about all the time they had just wasted.
On 30April 2015 Rhodes University students and staff members gathered in the tightly squeezed Barratt Lecture Theatres where esteemed Commander in Chief (CIC) of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Sello Malema was scheduled to give a lecture. Those who were unable to gain access, due to lack of space, stood in the rain in hope that they too would get to hear the controversial politician speak.
“I want to hear his take on why he thinks the name should change,” said third year student Ziyanda Mbobo.
With the lecture taking place only hours after Bcomm honours student Edward Mabaso led a march against changing the name of Rhodes University, many students opposing the name change shared Mbobo’s sentiments and but only a few chose to wait in the rain to prove it.
The #KeepTheName march did not share in the EFF lecture’s popularity. “I was expecting around 200 students,” said Mabaso. “They expressed that they were coming but I have since received messages telling me that we should represent them.”
With less than 20 protesters, Mabaso led the march through the rain towards the university’s Vice Chancellor’s office where they were welcomed warmly. “I do acknowledge the view you are suggesting,” said Dr Sizwe Mabizela.“I have received other memorandums advocating for the name change and all will be presented at an institutional forum.” Dr Mabizela went on to add that the forum will help with discussions on the name change and all the views presented thus far.
While Mabaso claimed that the rain was the cause for the low attendance, students who had braved the rain to wait for Malema later on that day argued differently, “I personally don’t think the name should change,” said Mbobo, “I didn’t attend the protest earlier because I didn’t think it would be that important, things at Rhodes just fizzle out.”
“I think if Comrade Malema had a valid point to make, he wouldn’t have excluded three quarters of the students his arguments affect the most,” said third year BComm student Mbongeni Ndlovu, who had been waiting in the rain for over two hours.
Ndlovu was yet another student advocating against the name change but did not attend the #KeepTheName protest earlier that day.
While standing for what you may believe in is the main argument surrounding transformation at Rhodes University, recent events have shown that the masses, regardless of what they believe in, will flock to hear the most popular voices.
The question then is, once all is said and done and the name has changed or stayed the same- will everyone with an opinion feel that their points have been represented?