The recent petrol bombing of the Vice Chancellors office at the University of Cape Town is under investigation however Dr Max Price believe the incident was premeditated.
Surrounded by yellow police ticker tape, the office of University of Cape Town (UCT) Vice Chancellor Max Price has become the scene of a crime after an arson attack on Tuesday night.
The second day of protesting at the university escalated with student’s petrol bombing the VC’s office after the removal of a shack erected for a demonstration.
“I wasn’t on campus when the petrol bombing happened,” said Price. “Fire alarms went off and a team was called in to put it out,” he added.
This comes after the Rhodes Must Fall #Shackville demonstrations which began on Monday in protest of the lack of accommodation for black students at the university. Rhodes Must Fall activists erected a shack on Upper Campus which was subsequently forcibly removed.
A student, who did not want to be named, said “a small group of us decided to burn Bremner, Max Price’s office.”
“The building itself works against the students … We made the decision that we have to target UCT, the space, the actual building because the building, the administration particularly, it works to push black people out,” the student activist added.
It was the frustration of violence and the symbolism of the act that lead to the burning of Price’s office “[Max Price] himself is the reason why police come on campus, why they fire rubber bullets, why they imprison our comrades, basically why black people are kicked out, he is the gatekeeper of the system,” said the UCT student.
But despite these sentiments the VC seems unfazed by the demonstration, “The office represents the head of the university. Therefore, I do not take it personally,” said Price.
Price also said the attacks were “acts of vandalism which were planned and prepared.” He said evidence in the form of bottles and petrol were found in the same shack used in the protest.
At this stage there is no evidence of who is responsible for the arson attack but an investigation is underway. “It is a crime scene and will be treated as such,” said Price.
RETHINKING BLACKNESS: Black Thought Symposium members meet weekly to discuss issues that affect black students at Wits. Photo: Mzoxolo Vimba
The first meeting of the Black Thought Symposium for 2015 was held in the basement of the popular bar/hotel The Bannister. A strange combination. Upstairs, young people were dancing to popular, hip sounds, while downstairs, this group was debating what black consciousness and blackness mean in contemporary South Africa.
These group of students meet every Friday to discuss and engage on issues affecting Black students at Wits, and larger society.
Black Thought was started last year as “a platform for black students to interface and discuss issues that speak of the black condition”, says Mbe Mbhele, 4th year LLB and co-founder of Black Thought. “We felt like we were not well represented at Wits and we did not have any platforms to ask certain questions about the culture and nature of Wits.”
“As black students we felt that we are not there yet. There are certain issues we have not yet resolved, and there are certain discourses we still need to have, in order for us to even begin speaking about a ‘rainbow nation’.” he says.
“The hour of Biko has arrived!”
The accessibility of historically white universities to black students and questions of black identity have been raised by students in other institutions as well.
Students at the University of Cape Town have been calling for the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes statue in the institution’s Upper Campus. The students have been voicing their concerns at the ways in which universities side-line black students by using hashtags like #RhodesMustFall and #TransformUCT on social media. They have been recently joined by Rhodes University students, who have also started a social media campaign on the same issue.
Mbhele says the issues these universities are facing are all connected, saying the problems of black alienation that universities face are as a result of the history of colonialism and apartheid.
“These are some of the concerns we highlight in Black Thought,” he says.
In between the discussions and debates, a platform is offered to musicians, poets, writers and visual artists to showcase their talents. This then also allows for discussions on the role that art plays in encouraging young people to think critically about society.
“What is the roles of an artist? What does an artist do in the process of liberating black people? How is [art] detrimental? How is it progressive for the struggle?” says 2nd year BA student and member of Black Thought, Koketso Poho.
Mbhele and Poho believe that Black Thought is growing. They say, in unison: “The hour of Biko has arrived!”