Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) and fellow student protesters have defended the burning of “colonial” paintings, a car, Jammie Shuttle bus and the administrative building at the University of Cape Town (UCT) last night. The university property was set alight after private security and police demolished #Shackville, a shack erected by RMF students on Upper Campus, close to where the Cecil John Rhodes statue was situated.

A member of RMF who was present when the torching of the paintings, vehicles and administrative building happened explained the motivation for the burning.: “The burning of the pictures is twofold, the one is that black people are very angry to be found in an anti-black institution and expected to just exist, or rather not really exist. And then to be confronted with these colonial artworks in the same way as being confronted with the Rhodes statue … This speaks to the idea that black people are not taken seriously. So you can remove a statue but you think there is no relevance in thinking about the artwork or other aspects of the space which black people have to participate in.”

Speaking about the burning of UCT property, the member said, “This is a response to the violence by the state and by the institution as well … As black people there is a cathartic feeling of responding to violence with violence, by setting fire and burning down an anti-black institution. [The fire] is a small descriptive way of explaining what the anti-black UCT does to black people.”

The RMF member argued that burning down buildings was a resolution of the question of Frantz Fanon’s “revolutionary violence.”

“What is violence when we [as black people] are committing it and what is violence when the institution is committing it? When we brought it to the ground we came to the decision that we have to target UCT, the space, the actual building, because the building acts against the students. The administration particularly works against black students … [UCT Vice Chancellor] Max Price is the reason why police come on campus, why they fire rubber bullets, why they imprison our cadres and basically why black people are pushed out.”

A group of eight students were arrested and later released on bail after they were dispersed from Upper and Lower campuses using stun grenades and rubber bullets. According to EWN.co.za the group was charged with malicious damage to property and public violence.

The recent #Shackville demonstrations started on Monday, the first day of lectures at UCT, in protest of the lack of accommodation for black students. RMF erected the shack on Upper Campus as part of the protest.

According to a statement released by RMF yesterday, “Shackville is a representation of Black dispossession, of those who have been removed from land and dignity by settler colonialism, forced to live in squalor.” The statement further cites “theft of Black land” as one of the reasons for black students being systemically excluded from education and accommodation.

“It is necessary, therefore, to impose this image onto our campus where there is a purposeful attempt by UCT to hide away from its complicity in the violence experienced by those in shacks and townships throughout the country,” the statement said.

“UCT cannot continue as normal when outsourcing has not ended and workers are left unclear as to the conditions of their employment. UCT cannot continue as normal while fees have not fallen and Black students continue to be financially excluded from university. UCT cannot continue as normal when it has lied to us about exclusion, and chased people out of residences, denying students the means to study.”