A combined film screening and panel discussion was allegedly halted due to the university’s fears of conflict
A screening of the film, Everything Must Fall, was scheduled to take place at a residence on March 19, when it was abruptly cancelled due to alleged tension with Wits management.
The screening for 95 people was scheduled to commemorate Human Rights Day. According to the Everything Must Fall website, the film looks at the #FeesMustFall student movement that South Africa faced in 2015. The idea was to have a panel discussion after the film which was to be led by lawyers from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute.
A Wits student and organiser of the screening who wishes to remain anonymous told Wits Vuvuzela, “Mr Skosana [Head of Protection Services] mentioned that he would come and scan the venue for security purposes. However, on the day of the event, he started expressing reservations about how likely students are to converge into vigorous political debates in the course of the panel discussion.” Mr Skosana went on to say that it is an election year and considering that, people are likely to come onto campus with the intention of polarising students’ views.
The student organisers of the screening were then told that they had failed to follow procedure which involved presenting before the Events Management Committee (EMC). According to the Wits student and organiser, this was communicated to them only hours before the film was set to be screened. Furthermore, this procedure for internal events was non-existent in previous years.
“I contend that we did not appear before the events committee. But nothing in our correspondence alluded to the fact that we would need to do that,” said the student.
Rehad Desai, Wits alumnus and director of the film said Wits believed a panel discussion would have amounted to it becoming a political event. Desai expressed his disappointment by saying, “We have gone to great efforts to make this film that has garnered critical acclaim at home and abroad – and now we seem to be getting blocked for reasons I simply cannot fathom.”
Subsequently, the organisers canceled the screening as the event would only be permitted if a panel discussion did not take place.
However, Shirona Patel, head of communications at Wits said, “On Wednesday, [Rehad] tweeted that [Wits] is not allowing discussion around his documentary. This is blatantly untrue…the university has allowed [Rehad] access to film #FeesMustFall on campus… It is therefore surprising that [Rehad] is making these allegations. Perhaps it is just a cheap publicity stunt to try to attract more attention to his documentary.”
The anonymous student expressed that, while the university did not completely cancel on them, it frustrated the process.
The student added, “We are in a university and one would think it is here that views are meant to be debated.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Students are seen marching at Wits University during the #FeesMustFall protests. Photo: File Picture