Yesterday was “Back to the Future” day, the day on which Marty McFly and Doc Emmett Brown travelled in a time machine to 21 October 2015 in the 1989 film Back to the Future II. We watched the film on DVD for old times’ sake, and I thought that Doc Emmett Brown looked a good deal like the real Dr Who.
But, in other news, it was also forward to the past, with police beating up students outside the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town. It was like 1968-1972 all over again.
When students stormed Parliament’s grounds on Wednesday afternoon, SHAUN SWINGLER was there to document the police’s brutal response.
For those old enough to remember 1989, when Back to the Future Part II was made, it was the annus mirabilis, the wonderful year in which freedom was breaking out all over, and repressive regimes all over the world were falling, including here in South Africa. It was the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall and PW Botha.
And for those even older, 1968 was a rehearsal year for 1989.
It was the year of student power, flower power, and the Prague Spring. Flower Power probably saw its greatest victory five years later in the Carnation Revolution, which overthrew the Portuguese dictator Marcelo Caetano.
Student power touched South Africa too, and there were student demonstrations in universities here. After the early 1960s South African students seemed to have become rather timid, but in 1968, perhaps encouraged by the world-wide student protests, things began to liven up again, especially in the period 1968-1972. In June 1972 there were protests in Cape Town outside Parliament. The NP government banned protests in the grounds of parliament itself and in public places, so students gathered on the steps of St George’s Anglican Cathedral, which was private property belonging to the church, though visible to passers-by in the street. The police rioted, chased the students into the cathedral and beat them up. Back to the future.
In 1994 we had our first democratic elections, and we had a new government, which promised to redress the injustices of the past, and to transform society, including education.
One of those promises, relating to education, is displayed on this old election poster.
I suggest that students protesting against the increases in study fees should wear T-shirts with reproductions of this poster, to remind the politicians of their promises.
And the politicians should also rein in the aptly-named riot police. They rioted in Marikana, and now they are rioting in Cape Town, at parliament where the politicians can see them in action.
Forward to the past, to Sharpeville.
Where is the “transformation”?