Monday, May 1, 2017

Seven Videos Of Protest Versions Of The Song "Shiwelele" (South African Struggle Songs)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part pancocojams series on the South African song "Shiwelele".

This post provides information about South Africa's #FeesMustFall student protest movement and showcases seven YouTube videos of the South African struggle song (protest song) "Shiwelele". "Shiwelele" is often referred to as the anthem of South Africa students' #FeesMustFall protest movement.

Selected comments about and partial lyrics for versions of that song are also included in this post.

Click for Part I of this sries. Part I provides information about Bojo Mujo, the record producer, singer, and composer of the 2003 House/Kwaito song "Shiwelele" and other songs. A YouTube sound file of "Shiwelele" is showcased in this post along with selected comments from the discussion thread of that sound file and from another YouTube example of this song.

The content of this post is presented for historical and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.
Pancocojams Editor's Note:
The Zulu rallying call/statement "Sifunda Ngenkani" (sizo funda ngenkani) for the #FeesMustFall student movement is routinely translated into English (in online articles and discussion threads) as "We are going to study by force" or "We are learning by force".

As an American, "Studying by force" would usually be given as "being forced to study" and/or "being made to study against our will". Those certainly aren't the intended meanings of Sifunda Ngenkani".

I believe that a better standard American English translation for "Sifunda Ngenkani" is "We are very determined in our cause" [for #FeesMustFall"] i.e. We are strongly advocating in favor of educational systems that don't discriminate against or and/or deny educational access to students of a particular class or race.]

"#FeesMustFall is a student led protest movement that began in mid October 2015 in response to an increase in fees at South African universities.[6] Protests started at the University of Witwatersrand and spread to the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University before rapidly spreading to other universities across the country.[7] The 2015 protest ended when it was announced by the South African government that there would be no tuition fee increases for 2016. The protest in 2016 began when the South African Minister of Higher Education announced that there would be fee increases capped at 8% for 2017; however, each institution was given the freedom to decide by how much their tuition would increase.

The protests followed a three-day student lock-down of the University of Witwatersrand campus the week before following an announcement by the university that fees would be increasing by 10.5% in the following year[9] despite an inflation rate of only around 6% for the same year


Date: 12 October 2015 – ongoing

Location: South Africa


0% university fee increase for 2016.
Over R 600,000,000[2] damages.
Increased government funding for universities.

Injuries 2
Arrested - 619[3][4]"
Additional information about the movement is found in the next section about protest versions of the song "Shiwelele"sothe section bela i
Click for a pancocojams post about the #FeesMustFall movement.

Excerpt #1:
From Origins of SifundaNgenkani and Shiwelele by Mbe Mbhele

"This is a historical account and a political analysis was deliberately omitted. It is from a Wits EFFSC perspective and any omissions are in no way an attempt to discredit contributions made by other movements or individuals’’

Sifunda Ngenkani is a call for all students to militate against* the commodification of education that has a tendency of denying students of a particular class and race access to education. The name comes from the Zulu language and the loose translation means ‘we are going to study by force’**. The doors of education shall be opened for all, not only in books and poetry but in reality. The slogan calls for all students and prospective students to commit themselves to the realization of FREE AND QUALITY EDUCATION in our lifetime. It is also very important to highlight that when we speak of free education we do not only speak of a fee free education but we also speak of an education that is decolonized. This is to say that the education system of our universities must reflect those who serve it and those that it serves. We are in Africa and this must be evident in the kind of education that we receive.

The name was coined in February 2014 at Wits University by members of WITS EFF student command. It was the 14th, I remember this minor detail because it was Valentines Day and this might be a coincidence but it was out of love that members of EFFSC decided to do something about the inaccessibility of higher education. It was out of love that EFFSC members decided to declare war against all elements that seeked to deny the poor majority of South Africans an education that will equip them with the necessary skills to change the conditions of their society for the better. Lest we forget, Che Guevara teaches us that a true revolutionary is always guided by a great feeling of love and any revolutionary who lacks this quality is not a genuine revolutionary.

Fighters were garbed in their red t-shirts which also happened to be the theme of the day and were singing revolutionary songs, and it is on this day that the famous Shiwelele was composed. The song perfectly captured the mood and climate of the time. It was during the period where NSFAS failed to provide assistance to students who qualified for funding. This saw more than 10 000 deserving students being rejected by universities around the country on the basis that they are poor. Fighters took the fight to the department of higher education in Pretoria where they occupied the office of the minister of education. They were violently removed and this was not surprising, the government of the ANC only uses violence to respond to genuine demands of its people. Fighters were not deterred by this, they continued with the fight in their respective campuses. Shiwelele became a song that gave them hope, this led to the suspension of five EFFSC members at Wits University. Koketso Poho, Ayabulela Mhlahlo, Tebogo Mabeso, Mbe Mbhele and Vuyani were amongst the students and were assisted by Commisar Floyd Shivhambu and advocate Dali Mpofu to institute action against Wits University. The suspension was reversed in the High Court where the judge expressed that the Vice Chancellor had infringed the right to education of the students."...
*The phrase "students militant against" near the beginning of this essay may be best translated in standard American English to "[students] rise up against" or "[students] take a vigorous stand against" .

** Note my earlier statement that instead of "We are going to study by force" or "We are learning by force" may be best translated in standard American English as "We are very determined in our cause". (That cause is for #FeesMustFall" i.e. we strongly advocate for educational systems that don't discriminate against or and/or deny educational access to students of a particular class or race.)

Please correct my interpretations of these statements.

Excerpt #2:
From Six Protest Songs To Brush Up On Before #FeesMustFall Returns
By Aaisha Dadi Patel, On Jan 5, 2016
"The student protests that swept the country this year were punctuated by the singing of struggle songs often older than the students themselves. With the #FeesMustFall movement showing few signs of abating, AAISHA DADI PATEL lists six struggle songs you should brush up on before getting back to campus.


Bandile Says, 2016
"You forgot Shiwelele, second only to Iyoh Solomon! Based on a popular house/Kwaito song by recently deceased artist Bojo Mojo, the song came about as a sort of tribute to him. One part of the song’s lyrics “Sobukwe (Biko) thethelela!”calls on the spirits of Black Consciousness leaders Robert Sobukwe and Steve Biko to intervene or intercede on our behalf.The other, “sizofunda ngenkani” meaning “we will study/learn by force” shows that free, quality education is not negotiable."

Excerpt #3
Article by: Tshirelesto Mati

Arguably the most motivating and uniting proponent of the struggle. Struggle songs are a major characteristic of South Afrikan struggles emanating from the pre 1994 struggles. Of course most of the songs have been recently modified to fit the context of our present day circumstances. However the meaning and significance of these songs, together with their history and origins continue to be pivotal to the struggle. During the #FeesMustFall and #EndOutsourcing protests and demonstrations, a number of struggle songs- popular and not so very popular or at least at the initiation of the protests- played a very effective role in perpetuating perseverance and motivating the movement to continue, irrespective of the challenges encountered.

In this entertaining article I intend to have fun with the struggle songs, fun in the sense that, I will translate and analyse them.


Shiwelele is one not rich in history, it has been very popular following the establishment of the Economic Freedom Fighters Students’ Command (EFFSC). Peter Keetse is the national spokesperson of the EFFSC and those who’ve been lucky enough to hear him lead the song will tell you that he does so exceptionally and brilliantly. Lyrically, the song speaks to the issues of students, but has since been modified to accommodate workers as well. The most prominent lines in the song is “We are going to learn by force” (sizo funda ngenkani) which was altered to suit the workers and became “We are going to earn by force” (sizo gola ngenkani). It also calls on students to come together and unite (bafundi hlanganani). The song finally taunts management, saying either “management is playing with us” or “a component of the system is playing with us”. By “us” it is referring to the protesters, the poor and working class. A part excluded from the song by the FeesMustFall movement is the “commander thethelela” part, this is because the movement had not an elected leader who was seen as standing out in the forefront. This is a song that will in the future continue to be sung in students’ and workers’ protests due to its relevance to the present day struggles."
*The video that is hyperlinked in the beginning of this article is titled Wits Protest October 2015. That video was published by mediaforjustice on Oct 19, 2015. Here's the summary of that video:
"Wits students protest over proposed fee hikes of 10.5% for 2016. Many of the students are from economically marginalised families and simply cannot afford these fees. This means that higher education is inaccessible to anyone but the privileged and mostly white students. Black students have been protesting for 4 days. On this day they were waiting for the agreed meeting with the Executive Committee - but the Exco never arrived - resulting in the students taking their protests outside of the campus. 19/10/2015"
"Wits students" = students at University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)
Given the information in these excerpts, I believe that the "Shiwelele" (protest songs versions) that are sung in these videos that are embedded in this post are in Zulu.

I've found only one "complete" version of the "Shiwelele" (protest song) - in the discussion thread for the video given as Example #1 below.

It should be noted that, to date, most of these videos have no comments. I've added a comment to three of these videos suggesting the amended English translation that I gave earlier for the words "sizo funda ngenkani)".

But, to date, when a commenter requests the lyrics for this song, the responses usually have been to give a translation of some of the words.

It seems to me that even though these songs may not be translated word for word to English or another language, for the folkloric record, complete lyrics for examples of "Shiwelele" should be documented and shared.

By the way, it appears that "Shiwelele" (protest songs) are sung with overlapping lyrics- one group continuously sings the fixed refrain while another group sings the song's verses whose lyrics may change.

These videos are presented in chronological order with the video with the oldest publishing date given first.

Example #1: EFF Night vigil fighters on song SHIWELELE

JULIUS MMELI MDLULI Published on Jun 3, 2015

EFF Night vigil fighters on song SHIWELELE
"EFF" = The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is a South African revolutionary socialist[9] political party started by expelled former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) President Julius Malema, and his allies, in 2013.

Malema is President of the EFF, heading the Central Command Team which serves as the central structure of the party.[11]

It is currently the third-largest party in both houses of the South African parliament, receiving 1,169,259 votes and a 6.35% share of the vote in the 2014 general election. By December 2014, the EFF claimed to have over half a million members, although this has not been independently verified."...
South African #FeesMustFall student protesters are referred to (and self-refer as [?] "fighters" in articles that are favorable to that movement.

Selected commetns from this video's discussion thread: [numbers assigned for referencing purposes only]
1. Bonile Lukhozi, 2015
"sisofunda ngekaniiii.....shiwelele.....! babopha umfundi omnyama......! Jujuh awuzosifaka umoya nakoUkzn phela"
These are lyrics that are used in a version of "Shiwelele" (protest song).

2. Zuhayr Mahomed, 2016
"Is it possible for someone to post the lyrics?"

3. Nqobile Amanda, 2016
"mafight'a hlanganani (shiwelele shiwelelele)
thina sofunda ngenkani (shiwelelel)
Malema thethelela (shiwelelele)
siyongena ngenkani (shiwelele)
babopha umfundi omnyama (shiwelele)"
Google translates from Zulu to English gives poor results for these lyrics.
"mafight'a together (print print the default)
I learned force (shiwelelel)
Malema defense (the default print)
into force (print)
bind black student (print)"
Malema = the President of South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party

Note the response to the question below about the meaning of the word "shiwelele".

I think that "bind black students" probably means "unite black students"

4. Actively So! Claudia, 2016
"what does shwelele means?

5. nomthunzi zambana, 2016
"Nothing" may mean that the word "shiwelele" was coined for rhythmic effect and has no literal meaning.

Example #2: Wits Fees Must Fall - #WitsFeesMustFall

It's Happening Published on Oct 15, 2015
Wits SRC President Nompendulo Mkhatshwa addressed a crowd of peaceful protesters.
Wits fees protest. (15 October 2015)
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread:
1. Mzwandile Ikan Mavundla, 2015
"Beautiful united voice, one nation #FessMustFall #NationalShutDown. Ammmandla !!!!"

2. aphelele mzozoyana, 2015
"01:25 to 01:42 that guy in the green shirt is really feeling the song and rhythm, pity he's at the back where there's no oomph😂😂😂 if it was up to him he'd fly to be at the center to join his fellow cadres who are also getting it down!"

Example #3: Wits Fee Must Fall Protest - Shiwelele Song

Thabo Makuru Published on Oct 19, 2015

Wits Protestors singing Shiwelele
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread:
1. Zuhayr Mahomed, 2016
"Is it possible for someone to post the lyrics to this song?"

2. Thabo Makuru, 2017
Its very difficult to translate this song but basically it says....“We are going to learn by force” (sizo funda ngenkani).

It also calls on students to come together and unite (bafundi hlanganani)
The song finally taunts management, saying either “management is playing with us” or “a component of the system is playing with us”. By “us” it is referring to the protesters, the poor and working class. I hope I make sense"

Example #4: University of Johannesburg EFF

PASEKA MWELAS Published on May 1, 2015

University of Johannesburg-EFF

Example #5: Amla leading Shiwelele

Amos Monageng Published on Nov 18, 2015

The morning before we went to union building. students of tuks singing shiwelele during protest week
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread:
1. Queen Dee, 2016
"I was there..."

2. Zuhayr Mahomed, 2016
"Can you please explain the meaning of this song and the words?"

3. Genius Tshabangu, 2016

4. Bubu Azania, 2017
"this is Unity!"

Example #6: SHIWELELE

Mpho Lopez Published on Nov 26, 2016


Excerpt #7: Shiwelele - Bojo Mujo | FMF Anthem singing]

ZoZoZu, Published on Mar 19, 2017

Presenting one of the most powerful Fees Must Fall anthems which was originally made popular by the late Bojo Mujo.
This is a photographic collage of #FeesMustFall protest marches with Bojo Mujo singing his song in the background.
In addition, here are two comments from the discussion thread for a video of Bojo Mujo's House/Kwaito song "Shiwelele" [WARNING: This video contains extensive flickering visuals).
Nthabiseng Moshoaliba, 2015
"in 2015 this song was sung at #WitsFeesMustFall bare "SHIWELELE HOHA HOHA HOHO SIZOFUNDA NGEnkani""

Lwandile Mdyeshana, 2017
"Hahaha we will sing it again force soon , better be prepared. 3rd Annual Fees Must Fall protest."

This concludes Part II of this pancocojams series on the song "Shiwelele".

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