By BO Editorial Team
Black Opinion republishes this BLF-SM (TUT) response to the Student Protests Policy of Tshwane University Of Technology
“Not only have they kicked the black man but they have also told him how to react to that kick” – Steve Biko
Summary notes on the TUT student protest policy
Before proceeding to respond to the above policy, it deems meet to firstly summarize the content thereof for context.
The proposed policy indicates the implementation date as 1 January 2016. This suggests that when the policy is officially adopted by TUT management at some future date it would have a retrospective effect. The policy requires student protests to generally occur within the boundaries that are acceptable by the university management and to this end indicates the “regulatory framework” for protest actions. It expresses management’s expectations and what their responses are likely to be to any violation of the policy or related laws, rules, regulations and other policies.
The policy is applicable to all students involved in protests at TUT’s “physical” and or “technological” space. It makes specific provision for the involvement of the “police and other external forces” by TUT management for any reason and not only when prohibited activities occur during protest action.
The protest policy prohibits the following actions by protesters:
- Prevention of access to classrooms or buildings at TUT.
- Occupation of any campus building or any part thereof at any time without management’s authorization thereof.
- Road blockades.
- Sits ins.
- Unreasonably preventing students and or TUT staff from engaging in their business or doing their work.
- Coercing others to participate in the protest action.
- Harming or intimidating those, including TUT staff and students, who are legitimately on campus premises.
- Saying, singing, carrying things (placards, banners and posters) that reflect a message which may cause hatred and or violence in respect of anyone or any group in terms of their race etc.
- Doing anything that is likely to infringe upon the rights of others and to this end cause violence and interference with the peace.
- Dressing to resemble those in the army or the police.
- Concealment of the face (including by the use of paint or a mask) during protest action.
- Damage to property including interference with the systems relating to TUT security, laboratory and fire safety
- Causing risk to the health, safety and welfare of others.
- Carrying dangerous weapons during protest action.
The general principles provide inter alia for the following:
- The right to freedom of expression must be exercised responsibly.
- The right to dissent that is orderly must be protected by TUT in line with the “academic integrity” of the campus. Also the right to such “orderly dissent” must not go against the preservation of the welfare of the wider campus community.
- Disciplinary action will be taken against any student who interferes with the “operations” of the campus or any other person.
- Protest actions that infringes upon the rights of others – “to peaceful assembly, orderly protest, free exchange of ideas” and “to make use of or enjoy the facilities or attend the functions of the University” – are prohibited.
- Protest action must not be violent.
- Obtaining the permission of TUT management is an absolute precondition for students to engage in any student protest.
- Any “unreasonable disruption” is not allowed and management may proceed against the relevant student(s) for any cost relating to protest action.
- Disruptive protest actions are prohibited.
- Only “appropriate dissent and expression” shall be allowed during protests. Furthermore, such “appropriate dissent and expression” is not available to persons not affiliated to TUT.
The Rules contained in the policy provides for the following:
- Student leaders must give at least a 72 hour notice to the campus management of the intent to hold a protest. Such a notice must specify the time, place, manner, general plan of action as well as the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the leaders of the protest.
- Lodgment of the above mentioned notice of intent does not constitute an approval of the protest action by campus management but simply triggers the consultative process.
- The management and students leaders must then determine reasonable parameters.
- The university management reserves the right to decline authorization of the protest action, should there be any suggestion of violation of the rules of the policy or related policy, laws etcetera.
- The event can only go ahead after formal written permission is granted by management.
- In making a decision on whether to grant or decline authorization to hold a protest management shall take the following into account:
– the number of protesters going to participate
– the area indicated for protest
– the movement route of the protest action
– the control mechanisms that the SRC will put in place to regulate the protest action
- Liaison person(s) must be appointed by each party, being the student protest leaders and management, so as to enable clear lines of communication during the protest.
The proposed Student Protests Policy for Tshwane University Of Technology carries a deliberately misleading message of the fundamental problem being the students themselves and not the colonial nature of education and the exclusion of black students from accessing free education. The policy clearly goes against decolonisation and seeks to maintain TUT as a colonial enclave and to perpetuate white supremacy. TUT management is at liberty to call in the police or any other external force for any reason it may deem appropriate to unleash its brutality on the students with impunity. We have already witnessed the impunity enjoyed by the police and other forces when they, for example, killed 34 defenseless miners in Marikana who were engaged in a peaceful protest action. This policy serves to absolve the state via the TUT management of any crime and related punishment regarding its perpetuation of the fundamental problem in relation to the anti black nature, content and effect of the education system. Furthermore the policy maintains and perpetuates violence against black students and in fact effectively bans student activism.
Independence and autonomy regarding the students right to protest action is wholly compromised by the policy. Every details of the protest action must get the prior approval of management – which in turn is arrived at after consultation with student leaders – including the time, place, venue and the plan of protest action. To this end
the requirement for liaison person(s) to be appointed by the student leaders and management, for communication between the parties during the protest action, is an indication of TUT management micro managing student protests. Moreover, the restrictive nature of the general principles reflects absolute autonomy and range to respond to student protests by TUT management. To this end the call for the maintenance of academic integrity, the prohibition on interfering with the “operations” of the campus or any other person, the ban on violence by the protesters, the disallowance of “unreasonable disruption” and the allowance of “appropriate dissent and expression” – without elaboration and reciprocal responsibilities being allocated to TUT management – is an indication of the said management’s intention to dilute and channel the legitimate struggles and power of the students in protest for settlement with management and by extension the anti black system.
There is no commitment on the part of TUT management to a non violent approach to protest action and in this context the requirement for students to be non violent amounts to a death trap in the face of the brutality that management is at liberty to employ against the students.
Black students are the rightful heirs of the revolutionary legacy of the class of June 16, 1976 and all other student struggles. To this end the militant struggles of the students must be protected and preserved – this includes the current struggle calling for the racist capitalist education system (and by extension the whole system and all its associated symbols) to fall.
The policy further criminalizes protest action against any particular “race” etc. This suggests that students legitimate struggles against white supremacy in terms of which whites are both the sole architects and beneficiaries, will be criminalized and those participating in it regarded as being racist. Black First Land First Student Movement, Tshwane University Of Technology (BLF-SM (TUT)) says blacks can’t be racist and hence this provision in the policy is anti black and as such racist. This also incorrectly suggests that any response to racism by black students is inherently racist. Chapter 4 of the BLACK AGENDA on racism is most instructive and should serve as a guide to action in this respect. This is what it provides:
“Black people are not responsible for imposing racial prejudice and racism and to this end are not beneficiaries of race based privilege. The resistance of blacks to dispossession, oppression, exploitation and systematic dehumanisation as a response to the legitimation of white supremacy, is not racist. The black struggle to obliterate white supremacy is a struggle for the truth, real justice and freedom to self-determination. Consequently, blacks can’t be racist for seeking restoration of their land and property as well as human dignity. Blacks can’t be criminalised for retaliating against the ills of white supremacy and when faced with racist oppression and deception. It is right for blacks to resist being patronized into complicity by white privilege which thrives on dispossession and exploitation – lest giving whites space to continue to prescribe to blacks how to respond to the individual or combined ills of racism that colonialist, apartheid and now neo-liberal regimes have legitimized. To this end these regimes have in addition to legitimizing injustices, maintained the protection of white privilege and its ill-gotten gains. Blacks are not the architects nor are they the beneficiaries of the racism. Blacks can’t therefore be racist for standing up and resisting racism.”
There is also a provision in the policy for the prohibition of protesters doing anything that is likely to go against the rights of others and cause violence and interference with the peace. This suggests that there should be peaceful coexistence between the state (via management as its representative) and the students in the context of the violently racist nature of the education system and the content thereof. It further suggests that the rights of whites via white supremacy must not be compromised in any way.
The prohibition on causing risk to the health, safety and welfare of others via protest action is problematic in the context of it being applicable only to the protesters and not to the management of TUT. To this end the health, safety and welfare of the protesters are denied when the brutality of the police and other external forces are brought to bear upon them by management.
The ban on carrying dangerous weapons during protest action does not elaborate on what is a dangerous weapon and this creates opportunities for just about any object carried by a student to be regarded as a dangerous weapon. Also what are students expected to do in the face of the brutality unleashed by the police and other external forces called by TUT management?
The firmness of the regulatory framework of the policy is clearly in favor of management. This is evidenced by the strong limitations to every aspect of student protests that characterizes the said policy.
BLF-SM (TUT) accordingly makes the following important points:
- The “proposed” policy is already in place therefore the call by management for consultation is superficial and in bad faith.
- The conditions set by the policy are illegal in that they curtail the rights to protest as prescribed in the constitution.
- The policy is a banning order on all protest and effectively a declaration of a state of emergency.
- BLF-SM (TUT) calls on management to scrap the proposed policy in its entirety – all of it!
- Should the policy be officially adopted, BLF-SM (TUT) shall not observe it and in fact challenge it including in the courts of law.
- TUT management seeks to be an absolute authority – a consolidation of the police, the prosecutor and the judge.
- BLF-SM (TUT) calls on management to focus on and eliminate the causes of protest action, then only shall there be peace.
- BLF-SM (TUT) calls on management to grant the legitimate demands of the students which are in any event linked to decolonizing the university and the whole country.
- BLF-SM (TUT) calls for management to take a non violent approach to student protests and to this end not involve the police or any other force in managing, curbing or stopping student protests.
- Tshwane University Of Technology Student Protests Policy
- Black Agenda
Issued by Black First Land First Student Movement, Tshwane University Of Technology -BLF-SM (TUT)
23 May 2016
Qcina Kavin Ndlala (Chairperson)
Cell number: 0729756796
First published in the BLF website