Day 4: FeesMustFall 2016 regains momentum

 

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Wits students marching for free education                                               Photo: Kyle Oberhozer

 

After a day of violence, rubber bullets, shock grenades and thrown stones, the Wits #Fees2017 protest on Thursday received what felt like new momentun after a meeting in Solomon House which sought to unite students from different politcal organisations, endorse leaders and  was opened by former #FeesMustFall leader Mcebo Dlamini.

Dlamini led a march of students from Education Campus to Solomon House in the afternoon. The protesters were allowed to march peacefully, escorted by Campus Control, with the police watching from a distance.

Dlamini was greeted at Solomon House, the place where last year he held centre stage as a student leader, with cheers from the students assembled.

But Dlamini quickly made clear that he was present only to support new leaders. Pointing at SRC president and Progressive Youth Alliance member Kefenste Mkhari,Wits Economic Freedom Fighters leader Koketso Poho as well as student activist Catherine Busisiwe Seabe, Dlamini said “These are the leaders that will deliver free education for us.”

Continuing, Dlamini declared that students “have the numbers” and if the government did not provide free education they would vote it out of power.

“If the ruling party does not provide free education, we are going to vote it out and put leadership that will prioritise education,” Dlamini said.

Dlamini was heckled by some protesters, including a group of female students near the front carrying sjamboks but he responded, “If you don’t like me it’s okay I don’t care I just want to work with you.”

Dlamini then handed the microphone off to Mkhari who emphasised that the student protest was peaceful and should remain so while condemning police violence. He said the movement was drawing a line against violence.

“Today we have separated the violent protesters from the non-violent protesters,” Mkhari said.

Worker’s representative Thandiswa Yaphi also spoke at Solomon House. She spoke about the unfair treatment of workers highlighting that Wits students should not allow the Matrix to operate until workers from Sizzlers, a cafe in the Matrix, who were dismissed are re-instated. She highlighted that insourcing was the solution for retail workers at Wits.

“There are no workers who are better than others, when I go to work I say I’m going to Wits not Sizzlers,” she said.

Seabe and the other student leaders then assigned some positions and broke the students into task teams that would deal with media, logistics and strategy. Dlamini also announced that a number of academics including struggle icon Ahmad Kathrada would be supporting the movement. The students are set to convene at Solomon House this evening to discuss a way forward for the protest.

 

Related Articles:

Wits Vuvuzela,  Universities shut down over #Fees2017. September, 19.

Wits Vuvuzela, Day 2 #Fees2017 roundup. September, 20.

Wits Vuvuzela, Third day of Wits #Fees2017 is shaken by clashes with the police, 21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite shade thrown PYA stays winning

Nompendulo Mkatshwa and the various members of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) were officially constituted despite false claims that Mkatshwa was not elected as president by branch general meeting (BGM).

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Nompendulo Mkatshwa remains SRC president, despite false claims by individuals within PYA BGM that she wasn’t.         Photo: Riante Naidoo

Friday saw the official constituting of the Wits SRC of 2016, despite a false allegation that a PYA BGM was opposed to the selection of Nompendulo Mkatshwa as president.

A media statement was circulated on Friday morning on PYA letterhead stating that the BGM did not elect Mkatshwa as president, later it was found to be a false claim.

Mkatshwa told Wits Vuvuzela that it was not PYA BGM who made those allegations but in fact ‘opportunistic individuals’ who decided to step outside of the democratic electoral process.

“Those are just individuals, that’s not PYA, those are opportunistic individuals who are just trying to disorganise the organisation, and we’re not going to allow that thing to happen,” said Mkatshwa.

Mkatshwa stressed that the PYA deals with matters internally, and will deal with this particular matter. She said that any individuals who spoke outside of the BGM did not want to respect democratic centralism.

“Being bestowed with the responsibility of leading students is the most humbling thing.”

On Thursday morning the PYA announced the various portfolio members of the SRC, and yesterday at 5pm the new members were officially sworn in.

Mkatshwa told Wits Vuvuzela about how she feels about being elected as president, “Being bestowed with the responsibility of leading students is the most humbling thing that anyone can go through or experience.”

On her excitement, “I’m humbled, I think it hasn’t sunk in yet,” describes Mkatshwa.  The meeting which began at 6pm on Wednesday and ended at 4:30am on Thursday morning was an intense and grueling one.

Former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini noted on his Facebook page that it was a very strenuous process.

Other elected members include deputy president Motheo Brodie, secretary general Fasiha Hassan, deputy secretary general Thabo Boom and treasurer general Karabo Marutha.

Mkatshwa remains confident with her backing, “We have four organisations that will back us up in anything that we do, and we will deliver as the PYA and the SRC.”

“We’re not perfect,” said Mkatshwa. “We will stumble here and there and we will admit where we have stumbled, but at the end of the day we will do our utmost best to have the interest of students being put first.”

Outsourced workers plan protest with sacked president

 

WORKERS AID: MJL Electrical workers outside the Great Hall before they got in to the Vice Chancellor’s Town Hall meeting last month. Photo: Sibongile Machika

WORKERS AID: MJL Electrical workers outside the Great Hall before they got in to
the Vice Chancellor’s Town Hall meeting earlier this year. Photo: Sibongile Machika

Axed SRC president Mcebo Dlamini and Wits workers are planning a protest at the Great Hall today in solidarity with fellow outsourced workers.

The protest action will happen throughout lunch hour, but protestors say they will continue the strike for as long as it takes to get a positive response from management.

“I hope they will disturb the exams so that the university can take them seriously,” Dlamini said.

Wits university management has been in disputes over outsourced workers formerly employed by Wits contractor MJL Electrical. MJL workers have made several allegations against the company, including non-payment of salaries as well as tax fraud.

Dlamini said that the companies that the university enters into business exploit black workers. “The university is failing to protect those workers,” said Dlamini.

Richard Ndebele, of MJL Electrical, said the workers have met with Wits management several times  yet no resolution has been found.

“We want Wits to consider a company that can absorb us, we’ve even suggested the names of companies that can do that but they don’t want to instead they (Wits) say it’s not their responsibility to do something for us,” said Ndebele.

Prof Beatrys Lacquet, the deputy vice chancellor of infrastructure and operations at Wits, has said that the university has paid what it owes MJL Electrical and the responsibility for the workers is on the company, not the university.

 

MJL workers are not the only outsourced workers to be unhappy with their lot at Wits. These workers, including those from Servest andUkweza, said they took a resolution on Friday that they will would protest in solidarity of MJL workers.

Ukweza worker, Tanya Khumalo* said she is supporting the strike because when workers from Ukweza were fired, workers employed by other outsourcing companies rallied in support of their reinstatement.

“Le rona tlamayile re ba thuse, batlo thola mosebetsi eming je ka rona bari thusitse, [We have an obligation to help them get other jobs, just like we were helped],” said Khumalo.

 

*Not real name.

Wits University confirms another SRC member facing disciplinary hearing

Wits University has confirmed that it is investigating another member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) following a series of accusations on social media and media enquiries.

“The university can confirm that legal proceedings are indeed underway against another SRC member, following incidents which occurred last year, before the member took office,” the university said in a statement.

“These proceedings are being adjudicated by an independent student disciplinary committee and an outcome is expected in the next few months. The university’s management has no control over these proceedings. However, once a decision is made, the university will act accordingly.”

The Wits Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) had sent a number of tweets asking why no action had been taken against the SRC member as had been done with the dismissal of former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini.

 

The university said the raising of the matter was “political opportunism” and would not be pressured to act “outside of its normal procedures in response to this opportunism.”

STATEMENT FROM WITS UNIVERSITY

 The University has received multiple queries from the media and social media pertaining to the status of another disciplinary hearing involving a member of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC). We understand that this matter is being raised as a result of political opportunism to force the University to act beyond its boundaries. The University will not act outside of its normal procedures in response to this opportunism.

However, the university can confirm that legal proceedings are indeed underway against another SRC member, following incidents which occurred last year, before the member took office. These proceedings are being adjudicated by an independent Student Disciplinary Committee and an outcome is expected in the next few months. The University’s management has no control over these proceedings. However, once a decision is made, the University will act accordingly.

All student disciplinary matters are dealt with in terms of the policies and procedures of the University, which apply equally to all students. The University acknowledges that these procedures generally take too long to reach a conclusion and management has been authorised by Council to look at ways to expedite these processes without compromising the disciplinary processes.

OPINION: Hitler debate exposes our hypocrisy

By Sibulele Mgudlwa

Sibulela Mgudlwa was the 2012-2013 Wits SRC President. He shares his thoughts on the ‘I love Hitler’ comments made by Mcebo Dlamini.

Former SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa gives commentary on the case of recently dismissed Mcebo Dlamini. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

OPINION: Former Wits SRC President Sibulele Mgudlwa gives his opinion on the case of Mcebo Dlamini. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Well, Hitler was an animal who had no limits to his brutality. But one thing about the recent comments of SRC President Mcebo Dlamini about Adolf Hitler is that they have created a lot of healthy debate around many issues. But they’ve also created their fair share of retrogressive opinions joining the discourse and these must be squashed immediately.

Perhaps to be more specific, there’s a laughable notion that suggests that a love for Hitler directly translates into a love for the colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Some people have cunningly, and perhaps insidiously, introduced the idea that those who love Hitler or his style of leadership automatically love Cecil Rhodes and other white supremacists. It’s a very lazy view that seeks to reverse the gains made by the #RhodesMustFall movement. Zapiro certainly takes this view further in his recent cartoon by depicting Wits as a Hitler-loving and transformation-hating university, in direct contrast to the more “forward-thinking”, Rhodes-hating University of Cape Town. Well this is plain silly.

Lessons can be learnt from Adolf Hitler

There’s a whole lot we can learn from the Hitler and the period of history he lived in. Appreciating some aspects of that portion of history and their relevance today does not necessarily mean you’re against transformation or that you’re a raging, rabid racist intent on killing white people. We can study the energy and passion of Germans living during the Nazi era, who wholeheartedly stood behind a common cause (albeit a terrible one) and use it in our own country in the fight for radical economic emancipation of the most needy in society.

In addition to that, we can also use the Hitler period to expose the glaring hypocrisy of the Israeli regime; a country which today happily and determinedly runs their very own concentration camp which would have made Hitler beam with pride in their very own backyard. We know only too well that in Gaza the life of a Palestinian is as disposable as a Jew in Nazi Germany . The sheer barbarism of the Holocaust is a critical lesson from the Hitler legacy that we can, and must, understand; an event that should never again happen in our society.

“Perhaps the biggest lesson in all of this is that we, as varsity students, must learn to accept complex and multi-dimensional views that don’t just have one side to them.” 

The Hitler legacy also teaches us how to deal with our scars from apartheid. The way Germans dealt with Hitler and Nazi symbols after his rule should serve as an educating process on how to deal with those who offend our values as South Africans.

Hendrik Verwoerd still celebrated in South Africa

How is it that the man who conceptualized and implemented one of the biggest crimes against humanity in history, the ‘architect of apartheid’ Hendrik Verwoerd is still celebrated by many South Africans who name streets after him and erect his statues? Verwoerd and Rhodes and what they stood for is as offensive to us as Hitler was to Germans. Surely we must be as impatient with our colonial symbols as post-Nazi Germany was with Nazi symbolism (which today is illegal in that country). We must learn a thing or four from the Germans who refused to be associated with leaders who violated their beliefs.

Perhaps the biggest lesson in all of this is that we, as varsity students, must learn to accept complex and multi-dimensional views that don’t just have one side to them. We must be able and willing to engage views that offend us with high levels of maturity and soberness. It really doesn’t help much when we retreat and hide in our stereotypical corners whenever our core beliefs are contested. Otherwise why are we in university? Lastly, we must refuse to be punished and persecuted by anyone (particularly vice chancellors) for airing views which don’t sit well with them or their friends. This is a learning space.

We are not, after all, in Nazi Germany.

Fellow SRC presidents respond to Dlamini’s axing

The presidents of Student Representative Councils at some of South Africa’s top universities have weighed in the removal of Mcebo Dlamini as president at Wits University.

Student Representative Councils (SRCs) around the country continue to discuss the dismissal of Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini earlier this week. While most have reserved their comments for now, others have expressed support for the axed leader.

University of KwaZulu-Natal

While most of the SRC presidents contacted say they are still in discussion over the matter, Dithobe Mosana, SRC president at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) told Wits Vuvuzela Dlamini’s Facebook account is a “private space”.

He added that Dlamini was voted in by the students of the university and Wits’ vice-chancellor, Professor Adam Habib cannot “dictate who should be leading the SRC”.

Dithobe Mosana, UKZN's SRC president. Photo: Facebook.

Dithobe Mosana, UKZN’s SRC president. Photo: Facebook.

Mosana felt that Wits students should decide whether their president fulfilled his job well enough. “If students are unhappy they must say the SRC president is not fit to lead in a petition,” he said.

“The SRC is supposed to be a platform where students believe their interests can be represented,” Mosana added.

University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) SRC president, Ramabina Mahapa, told Wits Vuvuzela a meeting was held on Tuesday, May 5, with 14 UCT SRC members to discuss the removal of Dlamini.

He added that a statement would be issued by the end of this week but none was available at the time of going to press.

Rhodes University

Siyanda Makhubo, SRC president at Rhodes University told Wits Vuvuzela via email that based on the meeting of his SRC held on Wednesday evening they have “decided to reserve [their] comments FOR NOW.”

Rhodes Univeristy's SRC president, Siyanda Makhubo. Photo: Facebook.

Rhodes Univeristy’s SRC president, Siyanda Makhubo. Photo: Facebook.

He said this decision was made in order to assess Dlamini’s behaviour so they “can be in a better position to critically engage with the situation at hand.”

Makhubo said a follow-up meeting will be held with Rhodes’ SRC on Sunday after which they will release a statement.

“We value and respect the jurisdiction of each SRC and will therefore do our own research in trying to find out about the context and issues following the outcome,” Makhubo said.

The SRC presidents of the University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch and the University of Johannesburg could not be reached for comment.

Mcebo side-eyes campus media

SRC President Mcebo Dlamini speaks to everyone except Campus Media

Dismissed SRC president Mcebo Dlamini was a common presence on radio and websites this week with several media appearances. Everywhere—seemingly—except for campus media outlets Wits Vuvuzela and VowFM.

Since his dismissal as SRC president on Monday, Wits Vuvuzela made several attempts to get hold of him: eight landline calls, four cell phone calls, four WhatsApp messages that were read but not responded to (blue ticks!) and countless visits to the SRC offices.

After all this effort, Wits Vuvuzela only managed to get hold Dlamini only once and his comment was very simple: he was still “gathering his thoughts”. He had been booked to go on VowFm but was reportedly a no-show.

But while he has not appeared on campus media, Dlamini has appeared frequently on commercial outlets.

He spoke to the Mail and Guardian and said Vice Chancellor Adam Habib’s decision to remove him from office was because he “succumbed to pressure from the White community”.

He went on to explain to Eye Witness News that his dismissal was “proof to everyone that white supremacy is putting its boots on the neck of the black child.”

The most comprehensive of interviews that Dlamini gave was one where both Dlamini and Habib were interviewed on Power FM. Dlamini said his dismissal was a “joke” and that the vice chancellor knew he had no case against him.

Dlamini said the charges on which he was dismissed are related to a fight he had in a dining hall happened one year and four months ago before he became SRC president. He said that he had been found guilty by a “kangaroo court in an effort to protect the evil that is practiced by the university, chaired by Adam Habib”.

“The university just wanted to get rid of me,” Dlamini said.

He also told PowerFM that Habib was “twerking in my name all over social media

He continued to defend his remarks around Adolf Hitler: “Hitler is a freak of nature, I am failing to separate him from the White people.  In all of them there is a small element of Hitler.  In as much as they can do good things, there’s an element of Hitler. It is time for the Black masses to speak against White supremacy because we are going nowhere.”

When asked how he was planning on responding to his dismissal, Dlamini told PowerFM that “the students will decide”.

“I was put in office by the students, and if the students are happy that the vice chancellor will twerk in my name and at their expense on all social media, behaving like a pop star, then they will allow him, but if the students believe in the power of blackness, then they will challenge this thing because I didn’t put myself in office.”