'Freedom in our lifetime ... for us it was always a dream'

20 April 2015 | Story by Newsroom
Saleem Mowzer (Photo by Abigail Calata).
Saleem Mowzer (Photo by Abigail Calata).

Saleem Mowzer – former special advisor to the minister of economic development – cut his activist teeth while studying at UCT. These are some his memories from his time at UCT between 1983 and 1987.

"UCT was an important terrain of struggle to highlight the injustice of apartheid education and apartheid in general. It also played an important role in the global campaign to isolate South Africa. My experience at UCT was a very good one. We weren't just normal students; we were student activists, engaged in the struggle to bring about a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa. We never realised we would have freedom in our lifetime. For us it was always a dream.

"I completed my BA degree in 1986. We advocated very strongly for people like ourselves – ie activists – not to participate in the university graduation programmes; and so the vast majority of black students, including myself, boycotted the graduation ceremonies. The message we wanted to get across was that education in this country was governed by apartheid policies – there were quotas and permits, which meant that white students still made up the majority of the student body, with only a handful of black students.

"UCT played a fundamental role in my political upbringing. It was a place where we could engage intellectually. We were able to gain access to political material through the university. There were some progressive lecturers, and through them we were also able to get material from the ANC and underground structures."

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