“This #FeesMustFall thing, I don’t want to be like I’m judgmental… but for me it is quite disturbing because, at the end of the day, when you go out there and you skip classes and do all those crazy stuff people are doing, you’re wasting your time,” said the Limpopo-born athlete.
Semenya is a final year sports science student at the North West University.
She said her plan was to graduate within three years and the #FeesMustFall campaign was delaying her academic programme.
“I’m not saying [the campaign] is good or bad but I wouldn’t go out there to jeopardise my school work and waste my time toyi-toying because I cannot afford school,” said the first black South African woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
Semenya spoke to Sowetan at former Miss SA Joan Madibeng’s sixth annual Women: The Real Architects of Society event in Sandton, which was held last week mainly to honour the 800m champion for athletic excellence after she won gold at the Rio Olympics in August.
The event was a follow-through of an awards ceremony by Madibeng in August to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Women’s March by honouring the achievements of women.
Semenya’s comments came as vandalism of university property linked to the #FeesMustFall protests has been estimated at more than R600-million.
Many universities have suspended their academic programmes and ordered students to vacate residences as police and private security guards clamp down on protests.
Semenya also questioned the motives of the students leading the #FeesMustFall campaign.
“Are you just doing that because you’re a failure [academically], [attempting to] disturb others so that they cannot graduate or are those people [leading the campaign] postgraduate students?” she asked.
“As a student, when you walk out of your room, going out there hitting other students because they’re not doing what you’re doing, how do you see yourself … because that’s violence?”
Semenya added that violence was not the right way to communicate grievances.
“When such things happen, they really disturb because when we look down at where we come from as South Africans, we don’t want to go back there, we have to move forward,” she said.
Semenya said students should not forget that SA was a Third World country with an economy that is still recovering from apartheid and it was unfair to draw comparisons with universities from First World countries.
“Our economy is too bad and everything is so expensive and as students we should understand that.
“For me I don’t really like it because violence will never solve anything and the fees will not go down,” she said.