By BO Staff Writer
Many students who were part of the students protests late last year and early this year have faced expulsions, suspensions and victimisation by universities. The student movement has now called for a Shackville TRC to discuss a way forward in the continuing a struggle for a free, black centered socialist education. The BLF-SM has issued this statement in support of a TRC, but it has some conditions. Read the full statement below:
The Black First Land First (BLF) movement has come to realise that a mechanism to facilitate the reconstruction of the relationship between management and students is being muted. This deed is to speak to how the expelled five at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and two suspended at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and 78 with pending court cases, as well as 16 interdicted at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) et al, and the use of racist courts and state power to frighten and exclude those who fight against black exclusion. This intervention has been modelled on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Though we hold a thoroughgoing criticism of TRC, with all its white people centring inclinations, silence on reparations and lack of justice and redress, we are aware that even such a flawed model can be used as a tactic to get us forward in the struggle to get all black students who are expelled, interdicted and suspended reinstated with immediate effect.
The historic TRC process was a failed attempt, and it saw apartheid criminals granted amnesty whilst freedom fighters still continue perish in jails today. In the same way today at academic institutions, draconian measures are adopted toward black students that are active in addressing black issues, but white students at the University of Free State (UFS) that barbarically humiliated black workers by forcing them to eat food they had urinated on were forgiven regardless of their acts being violent in nature. Stellenbosch University forgave white students for black face at a party, dehumanising the black identity. This probes questions such as who is reconciliation for, who is allowed a humanised justice process?
We support the student/management TRC forum if it prioritises a situation wherein management takes ownership of the multifocal attack it has waged on resisting students. These attacks have culminated in universities operating like small scale war zones teeming with dangerous security guards sourced from our sister countries ravaged by war. In so doing the universities have been made into small scale zones of black on black violence wherein excluded black students are pushing back against a racist institution while the institution uses their security brothers and sisters to brutalise that resistance with white power operating in a manner unseen.
Student and worker protests across South Africa during 2015 and 2016 rallied against a racist capitalist and neo-liberal state formation for the realisation of a decolonised country. The various forms of protest action became a means for the voiceless of South Africa to refuse to be silenced until their grievances are uncompromisingly addressed. The response from the state and public institutions in 2016 to these protests has seen the repression and isolation of black students. The demobilisation of student movements and repression of “influential” activists is a major threat to youth participation in South Africa. Especially since it is well-known to South Africa that the youth has always greatly contributed to the struggle and acted as a catalyst for a revolt against apartheid.
During the month of February UCT #Shackville was a symbolic representation emanating from issues such as financial exclusion and the student housing crisis. The shack was erected below the Jameson stairs at UCT, which, according to university management, caused an obstruction to traffic and this led to the demolition of the shack by private security. This led to a confrontation that included the burning of paintings romanticizing colonialism and other forms of private property. However, we must note that the events surrounding #Shackville were a build-up to an inevitable conflict because Vice Chancellors refused to demilitarise campuses in order for the public funds to be channelled to assisting destitute students instead of paying security companies such as G4S that are complicit in gross human rights violations across the world.
#Shackville went on to inspire the erection of a shack at Stellenbosch University (SU) in May 2016 which represented the conditions of 150 workers dismissed for taking part in the #Endoutsourcing protests in 2015. The conditions of townships on the periphery of Stellenbosch is in stark contrast to the opulence of the white niche at Stellenbosch university where workers do back breaking work but are unable to send their children to the university they help build. It is clear that #Shackville effectively raised awareness as to how universities have isolated themselves from the surrounding communities.
On 11 May, Judge Allie from the Western Cape High Court issued a statement that ordered 5 of the 16 respondents from UCT for events of #Shackville to be barred from UCT premises. The Judge warned that the ruling was to punish student activists so that student activists be criminalised and face extreme victimisation. In doing so, the courts made their position clear by saying that those who challenge white supremacy and capitalism will be crushed.
BLF rejects the ruling as it cannot be that property is more valuable than human lives. BLF further condemns the draconian measures of universities and the state to criminalise student protests for access to education.
We are aware that the state with savage malice has colluded with universities to embark on a campaign to vulgarize the radical theoretical substance of student movements. Therefore, BLF-Student Movement supports the call for a Truth and Reconciliation of Inquiry for the events of #Shackville. Furthermore, the position of the state as an organ of racist, patriarchal class rule must be re-emphasised. This allows for the UCT TRC to further interrogate the apparatus of the state power that is so alienated from the majority and uses its machinery to further silence and suppress black people. At large the UCT TRC must act as a means for restorative justice for black people and allow the community to engage on justice processes. This is quintessential in that the corrosion of justice processes undermines an evolving democracy. Therefore, a rejection of a UCT TRC will open the door to more political tension and repression that will fuel anger for increased political violence on both sides.
A revolution is maturing, the struggle is to free black people from exploitation and enslavement through a war protracted by white supremacy and capitalism.
The Black First Land First Student Movement calls on all progressive forces to rally behind the call for #Shackville TRC and believes it should be a start of a national inquiry into the events and actions taken by both the activists and the state via management, security and police. BLF calls for the withdrawal of expulsions and repeal pending ones, all excluded via academia and finance should be permitted to return. Critically the #Shackville TRC, unlike the TRC which maintained white power and black oppression, should seek to be a pathway to justice, which is the only way true reconciliation can be experienced.
To support the CPUT and UCT TRC petitions please click on the following links: