Youth group, supported by academics and community organisations, rejects renaming of Amic Deck after mining company.  

The Socialist Youth Movement (SYM) plans to hold a mass march at the end of September, to protest the renaming of the Wits Amic Deck bridge to Wits Sibanye–Stillwater Infinity, scheduled for October. They want it to be renamed Marikana Memorial to acknowledge the 34 miners who died in 2012.

As soon as the announcement of the 10-year partnership and sponsorship of R52 million between Wits and Sibanye–Stillwater (a multinational mining and metals group), was made in August 2021, SYM released a public statement saying the decision went against the university’s social duties to be aware of the needs and contribution of all members of society and that “Our education system is a public good and should not be funded by private investments or sponsorships such as this.” 

SYM national co-ordinator Raees Noorbhai says that their campaign “serves as a poignant reminder of people’s sacrifice for justice and dignity”, and that tertiary institutions should be critical of transformation. This partnership with Stillwater reflects Wits’s support of the historical alliances between the state and mining industry, which have both failed to address past injustices, post-apartheid, according to Noorbhai.  

The Socialist Youth Movement placed 34 crosses on the Amic Deck a few days after the 10-year anniversary of the Marikana Massacre. Photo: Socialist Youth Movement Twitter

On August 20, 2022, a few days after the 10th anniversary of the death of the miners, the movement placed 34 crosses on the Amic Deck to remember them. The group also distributed a petition among academics from different universities and organisations seeking justice for the victims of the Marikana massacre.

“It is time for progressive academics across institutions to develop a common programme, centred around serving the interest of the public rather than the private sector,” says Wits alumnus, Luke Sinwell. By renaming Amic as Sibanye–Stillwaters, Wits will be undermining the institution’s integrity, he says. “What better way to honour Wits 100-year legacy than to recommit itself to the struggle of ordinary people who died in Marikana?”

Asanda Benya, a sociology lecturer at UCT says, “Renaming it Marikana Memorial would be symbolic, especially at an institution such as Wits, an institution that has benefited immensely from the labour of mine workers.” The irony according to Benya, is that although miners played a historical role at Wits, which started as the South African School of Mines, many miners cannot afford to take their children to Wits or any tertiary institution without financial support from the government.  

Renaming the Amic Deck in honour of the miners would aid in memorialising the murdered miners, says UJ research assistant Terri Maggot. “It will help Wits, a university with a history in supporting mining capital, to remember the human side of extractive mining.”  

However, in an August 2022 announcement published on the university’s official website, Wits said, “The bridge is not only a physical manifestation of our enduring relationship [with Stillwater] but now ensures strong support for knowledge generation and high skill development.”  The site adds that the bridge is a symbol of strength achieved through partnerships between the university and the mining industry.  

The sponsorship by Stillwater is the latest event in the collaboration between the company and Wits since 2014. This partnership has enabled students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mining through bursaries.  

Wits head of communications Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that this matter (of renaming Amic Deck after the Marikana miners) had not crossed her desk yet and therefore she had no knowledge of it.  

FEATURED IMAGE: There is controversy over the renaming of the Amic Deck which bridges the M1 motorway to connect East and West campuses. Photo: Malaika Ditabo