"Rhodes Must Fall": South African universities as sites of struggle

Hosted by LSE Africa Talks

Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House,


Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni


Wendy Willems

The university in South Africa became a key site of struggle in 2015. Faculty and university leadership were taken by surprise as students demanded a change in the curriculum and increased access to affordable education. The protests were spearheaded by students part of the Rhodes Must Fall Movement (RMF) at the University of Cape Town but were later taken forward by a range of movements at other universities, including the University of Oxford. The student struggles expanded into broader demands for decolonisation, transformation and Africanisation. This public lecture examines why the university in South Africa has become a site of struggle and aims to make sense of the recent rise of student movements.

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni is Director of Scholarship in the Change Management Unit in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria, and the founder and coordinator of the Africa Decolonial Research Network (ADERN). He is a historian and decolonial theorist who has published extensively in African history, politics, and development. His most recent books include Mugabeism? History, Politics and Power in Zimbabwe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); The Decolonial Mandela: Peace, Justice and the Politics of Life (Berghahn Books, 2016); and Empire, Global Coloniality and African Subjectivity (Berghahn Books, 2013). He is currently working on a co-edited book provisionally entitled Epistemic Break in Humanities and Social Sciences: Towards Decolonization of the African University.

Wendy Willems is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

Africa Talks is a programme of high-profile events that creates a platform for African voices to inform and transform the global debate.  

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A podcast of this event is available to download from "Rhodes Must Fall": South African universities as sites of struggle

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