Call for transformation not over - evicted UCT students

2015-04-13 17:59
(Paul Herman, News24 )

(Paul Herman, News24 )

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Cape Town - The UCT students who led an occupation of the university’s administrative building made six demands on Monday on behalf of workers at the institution following their eviction from the building.

Rhodes Must Fall campaigners told a packed Jameson Plaza on Monday that their call for transformation at the university was far from over, despite being evicted from the Bremner building following the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes statue.

“UCT management is using the law and university rules to criminalise us,” said Duduzile Ndlovu, one of four representatives of the Rhodes Must Fall movement who spoke at Monday's press conference.

“Our movement has lost momentum as a result of the eviction. But we still plan to address the circumstances of black students, staff and workers at the university.”

The group of between 50-70 students involved in the occupation of the Bremner building were served an eviction letter by university management on Friday.

The students initially occupied the building on March 20, as part of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. The students vacated the premises on Sunday night after a three-week "sit-in", following a threat of high court action.

Workers’ demands

A letter written by the UCT Workers Forum in support of the Rhodes Must Fall campaigners, and handed out to reporters, included the following demands:

-  A R10 000 per month basic minimum wage for workers at the university that are not part of the academic staff.

-  No victimisation of any worker who decides to support or join protest action, including strike action at UCT.

-  No victimisation of any worker who refuses to act against protest action or protesters at UCT.

- Workers must be able to refuse work that is a danger or hazard to their health and safety, without penalty.

-  UCT must instruct the companies to recognise the unions that workers at UCT have chosen, with enough paid time off for union organising and education.

The students also reserved words for Vice Chancellor Dr Max Price, claiming UCT management could have engaged with the students before issuing an eviction notice following the removal of the Rhodes statue.

“UCT management negotiated in bad faith,” said Kzaleboga Ramaru in response to a journalist's question on the matter.

“The statue came down on the Thursday. We were evicted on the Friday.

“You could have engaged with us,” another student, Thabo Pule said.

“Instead, you sent the sheriff down to evict us. We are not strangers to this experience.”

‘Decolonisation’

The lunchtime press conference started with much singing and chanting by the Rhodes Must Fall campaigners on Jameson Plaza.

A common theme expressed by the students was a desire to "decolonise" the university.

“There are devices present at the university which threatens black humanity,” continued Ramaru.

“Our three-pronged plan to help students, staff and workers is a commitment to black humanity.

“The task of decolonisation cannot be left to the coloniser. We will fight tooth and nail,” Pule added.

The students were also asked by News24 what the movement’s stance was in relation to a series of statue defacements that have taken place around the country since Chumani Maxwele first threw faeces on UCT's Rhodes statue on March 9.

“It’s not our place to support or condemn these other incidents,” Ntokozo Dladla responded.

“These other incidents just emphasise that black pain is real. But it’s not our place to police black anger.”

'Relieved'

The university, meanwhile, responded on Monday, saying it was working hard to bring all parties around a table to "co-author" the university's transformation strategy.

"It is important that all members of the UCT community participate in this process of mapping the way forward," said Gerda Kruger, executive director for communication, in a statement.

"University management and staff are relieved that the occupation has ended; this happened by mutual written agreement.

"Clearly, based on the ending of the occupation, there is no need to continue to seek an eviction order from the court."

Kruger also said the university wouldn’t prosecute the students who violated the 14:00 deadline on Friday and stayed at the Bremner building over the weekend.

It would, though, pursue disciplinary action in cases where it felt "legitimate boundaries" of protest action were exceeded, but concluded that it was also open to resolving these cases.

"We would like to encourage the Rhodes Must Fall group to engage with the Department of Student Affairs about getting support from the university as we give support to all student organisations," the statement concluded.

Read more on:    uct  |  max price  |  cape town  |  monuments debate

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