The Third Force in South African Higher Education Activism

The Third Force in South African Higher Education Activism
Cloete N

South Africa has a long history of ‘third forces’: the communists, the Central Intelligence Agency, the neo-liberal global conspiracy. But the really serious third force, or ‘hidden hand’, which killed thousands of people in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal around the constitutional negotiations, was orchestrated from within the country.

Nico Cloete considers the third force disrupting South Africa's campusses, and concludes that South African universities are on a knife’s edge, and so is the country as a whole. Universities – with their strategic location in the contestation for resources (both material and social capital) – are merely a symptom. Rather disingenuously, both students and the government are blaming the universities by accusing them of colonialism, racism and lack of transformation, but remaining silent about how, in some cases very legitimate demands have become entangled and embroiled in party contestations and the struggle for access to resources, and the maintenance of privilege.

However, if the disintegration of the political system and the systematic weakening of institutions is not countered, the universities could, like in many African countries, become institutions where the children of the global elite go overseas, the national elite attends a few public universities (largely undergraduate institutions for the training of civil servants) with no fees, while the rest scramble for fee-paying private colleges who call themselves universities.