Former student activist, Simamkele Dlakavu, says protests are often romanticised, but they come with personal costs. The psychological trauma that leaves those on the frontlines of these movements damaged and scarred for life is not often highlighted.
Dlakavu was speaking at the launch of an art exhibition themed: Insurgent Citizens, held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg.
Dlakavu says she was involved in three student protests, #FeesMustFall, Rhodes University Naked Protest and Remember Khwezi Protest. “These for me were not political, but deeply personal.”
She says many of the student leaders who lead the protests have been scarred for life. She recalled an encounter with a fellow activist whom she had seen in 2016, after their involvement in that struggle.
Dlakavu recited her peers words, in tears: “Soloko ndinxilile, Sima,soloko ndiqhunyiwe,andikho right.” (I am always drunk, Sima, I am always high, I am not fine.)
Dlakavu says: “When we think about these protests, we need to understand they came with a cost and this has not been resolved…some are in mental institutions, some in prison.”
WATCH Simamkele Dlakavu below:
Professor Thuli Madonsela also weighed in on the struggles faced by those involved in the #feesmustfall movement, saying her daughter’s involvement in the movement had left her with many questions.
Madonsela says the young women who fought during FeesMustFall should not have fought that battle, “we, the ones who came before them, should have fought it.”
The exhibition which looks at some of the most recent protests in South Africa, including Fees Must Fall, Marikana and Rhodes Must Fall, is currently running at the Nelson Mandela Foundation.