SA students’ anti-Obama campaign intensifies

2013-06-22 11:19

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More student bodies in Gauteng have joined students of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in opposition to UJ’s plan to confer an honorary degree on US President Barack Obama.

Said Wits SRC secretary Tasneem Essop: “We find him (Obama) distasteful in many of his policies. He’s had no respect for peace in other countries.”

Obama will visit South Africa next week and is scheduled to speak at UJ’s Soweto campus on June 29.

Student movement Sasco’s Gauteng chairperson, Nhlamulo Siwela, said all tertiary institutions in Gauteng with Sasco representation have joined in the protest against honouring Obama.

These include the Medical University of SA, the Tshwane University of Technology, Wits University and UJ.

The UJ SRC has formed a coalition with the ANC Youth League, the Young Communist League and other political bodies. They have started a “No you can’t honour Obama” petition.

Supporters of the petition say they are “horrified” by UJ’s decision to award Obama an honorary degree.

“Honouring a famous black American like Obama covers up the institutional racism where 60% of black students drop out of South African universities without completing their degrees.

Honouring Obama legitimises and covers up the persistent racial imbalances in our universities “UJ’s hypocrisy is such that they give Obama a degree but not their own students,” says the petition.

Tweeted the Wits SRC: “An honorary doctorate means that a person has contributed extraordinarily to a better life for all. Obama has done the opposite.”

The coalition plans a protest at the June 29 event.

Said Siwela: “We want to show South Africans and the rest of the world that we register disgust with what America is doing.”

The Sunday Independent reported that the matter of honouring Obama had not been finalised, according to UJ deputy vice-chancellor Professor Tinyiko Maluleke.

For everyone who was against the idea, there were people who were “joyful”, he was quoted as saying.

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