Fees Must Fall on social media: Instagram


“The revolution will be tweeted.” This caption is from one of Zapiro’s cartoons concerning the 2015 Fees Must Fall (FMF) protests which is still relevant to this year’s protest. #FeesMustFall is trending on a variety of social media platforms, it is no longer just on Facebook and Twitter.

This year the FMF protests have had more of a presence on other social media platforms like Instagram and Youtube. So far on Instagram there have been over 59 000 posts and over 47 000 videos on Youtube with #FeesMustFall. Social media has changed the way in which we interact with current affairs as online activism has become “a thing”. It has also changed the way events are reported. Media is able to provide live updates and student leaders have started to self-report as a result of tensions with mainstream media.

Student News Grid has considered how Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube have been used to engage with the FMF movement. In order to fully explore and explain how each platform has been used, four articles will be published with each one focusing on a particular platform. In this article we look at FMF on Instagram.

On Instagram the majority of users have posted either videos or pictures to express their opinions on FMF. With that said, the platform has also been used to report on what has happened at various universities and to spread awareness of upcoming FMF events around the country.  In this article Student News Grid has only shown some of the most liked pictures and most watched videos; this does not mean that these are the only comments people are making but simply shows what people seem to have more of a response to.

The most liked picture was posted by uctjustkidding. The picture is a comment on 2016 as a confusing and weird year with some of what has happened. The FMF movement features in the image as somewhat shocking to see where FMF has popped up. The movement has undeniably hit the entire country. This becomes more evident when FMF appears in unexpected places like MTV African Music Awards where well-known rapper Casper Nyovest took off his shirt to reveal “Fees Must Fall”written in bold on his body.

The second most liked picture relates the FMF movement to the issue of reparations. The user’s comment reflects the relationship that exists between poverty, education and the ability to take back the land. The concept of taking back the land and education being the first step in achieving this goal is an argument familiar to South Africans. It is an idea that has been echoed throughout the FMF movement.

In an article covering protests at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Sunday Times reported a student activist saying, “Everybody knows that the free, decolonised education is just the start. Once we have achieved that we are going to call for the land to be taken.”


Unlike the first two pictures, the third most liked picture on Instagram was a meme.  The image shows police and students together in a way that we are not used to seeing. Police are not shooting at students and students are not retaliating, instead they are standing together.


The most watched videos on Instagram differ quite a bit from the most popular pictures. The most watched video is a report as a opposed to an opinion. It was posted by News24video. The video is a snippet reporting some of what happened when students marched to parliament on October 26 to hear Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s mid-term budget speech.

It is interesting to note that the first and third videos here, are of the same day. However if you had to just watch the videos without knowing the dates, it would be hard to tell. The first video only shows a small part of the march. It shows students being violent and this is what gets more attention than the third video.

The difference between the two videos is that the third covers more of the march and does not only focus on the violent aspect. Even the way both videos capture the violent aspect is different. The first video shows students breaking rubble to arm themselves with stones. The third video captures the violent nature in speech when one of the students says, “We are here to fight with you if you want to fight with us and we are going to be violent if you are violent to us.”

The fact that the first video was more watched than the third raises a few questions. Why is it that as a society we are more drawn to watch violence as opposed to hearing about it? Further as the reader, this should lead you to question what the media shows and why you are shown a story from a particular perspective. These two videos demonstrate exactly how easy it is to show only one aspect of a story and how that can easily determine the perception the audience will develop from watching. Ask yourself what purpose it serves to  show you only a specific aspect.


The second most watched video was a short rap by lucasraps_sa. This video is very different compared with the other videos in this article. It is an artistic expression in support of the FMF movement and a plea to the South African government to hear students out. Lucas begins with “the government should see that for 2017 they shouldn’t raise the fees coz we got people that are academically inclined being declined”. In the clip He also sends a shoutout to students who were arrested for peacefully protesting. Lucas ends off by saying “So fees please don’t rise because you are not giving every South African a chance to shine.”

This article on FMF’s presence on Instagram only gives a taste of the vast variety of reasons for posting. I have only shown you six out of 59 238 posts. With an overwhelming amount of posts on just one platform, not even the most popular platform, we should all take a step back and critically evaluate what is in front of us.