Main Article Content

Theorising the #MustFall student movements in contemporary South African Higher Education: A social justice perspective

Mlamuli Nkosingphile Hlatshwayo
Kehdinga George Fomunyam


A significant amount of literature on the student movement in South Africa is characterised by two limitations. Firstly, a significant amount of this literature is found in un‑academic and non‑peer‑reviewed sources, such as social media, online newspapers, blog posts and other platforms. Secondly, some of this literature is characterised by an absence of theory in offering us critical analysis of the emergent conditions of the student movement as a phenomenon in South African higher education (SAHE). In this article, we respond to the above gaps by contributing to the scholarly development and critical analysis of the student movement in SAHE. In order to respond to the above two gaps, we firstly provide a brief historical and contextual environment that has contributed to the emergence of the student movement phenomenon in SAHE. Secondly, we introduce Nancy Fraser’s social justice perspective, in offering us the theoretical and conceptual tools we need to look at the struggles and challenges that confront student movements, focusing in particular on the challenges that frustrate them in relating and interacting as peers on an equal footing in society. Using Fraser’s social justice framework to look at the #MustFall movements will allow us to better understand them as complex phenomena in SAHE and allow us to properly understand their emergence.

Keywords: higher education; institutional differentiation; participatory parity; social justice; student movements; student politics