The SRC said they weren’t surprised the university was under financial pressure from Israel lobbyists not to drop the charges against 11students charged for disrupting the performance of an Israeli-born pianist.
“[The SRC] suggest our refusal to do so [drop the charges] emanates from the pressure from donors who support Israel. There have indeed been some individuals who have threatened to withdraw their donations,” said Habib and Nongxa on a Business Day article.
SRC secretary Tasneem Essop said “It is easy to draw a link between the university refusing to drop the charges and the financial threats made from donors who support Israel”. She said the reason the charges were not dropped is because financial and political pressure from Israel lobbyists.
Eleven students, nine of which are SRC members, were charged with possible contravention of university rules after they protested at the performance during Israel Apartheid Week
“11 members of the Wits community allegedly violated university rules, impinged on the rights of others, broke up the concert and in effect violated academic freedom, we acted and subjected them to disciplinary hearings,” said Habib and Nongxa.
Essop added that a day after the March 12 protest, at about 8.am, Habib and Nongxa released a statement distancing themselves from the student protest.
“They were in New York, they received threats from pro-Israel lobby,” said Essop.
She said the university chose to charge the 11 students but didn’t do anything when they were assaulted by members of security and were sworn at by people attending the Israeli-funded concert.
“We were called monkeys, savages, Muslim agitators. We were even told to ‘go back to the jungle where you belong’ but the university chose to charge the 11 students and did nothing [about the Israeli supporters],” said Essop.
Habib said they have not received any written complaint about the allegation: “If the SRC feels that this has happened, they should lay an official complaint and the matter will be investigated as per due process.”
Habib and Nongxa said Wits was neither a political party or a civil movement. “Wits has not taken a position to boycott Israel,” they said.
Mbuyiseni Ndlovu a PHD politics student who is one of the 11 students charged said the statement was nonsense: “Israel implements systematic racial discrimination. We can’t be neutral in such a state. Wits took sides during Apartheid. Wits took sides with the Dalai Lama. They can’t claim this neutral nonsense.”
The disciplinary hearing against the 11 charged students has been postponed to July 16.