Yesterday’s events left many of us feeling heartbroken and traumatised.
A heavy contingent of police and private security were present on campus to enforce “business as usual”. Protesting students attempted to gather only to be rebuffed again, and again, faced with teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades from the police. Amidst reports that police acted without provocation, that students retaliated with the throwing of stones and that private security were undisciplined, SET communications urged staff to continue business as usual.
What cannot be disputed is that although some lectures did continue, many others were disrupted and prevented from taking place by protesters and the police action. Many students and some staff were injured by rubber bullets, thrown stones and teargas. Some police were injured. The ASAWU president, Prof David Hornsby was injured by a rock as he stood on the Great Hall steps witnessing the stand-off between police and students. He has been treated and is currently recovering at home.
Words cannot capture how destabilizing and upsetting it was for staff and students to witness and experience these events. Our campus looked and felt like a war zone; it was blatantly apparent that no teaching, learning or research could continue to take place in those conditions.
Last night university management announced that talks with student leaders, facilitated by former student leaders and Advocate Dali Mpofu, have been initiated. ASAWU has been calling for talks and negotiations since this wave of protests began, and we applaud this very promising development. We trust that all parties will negotiate in good faith in order to resolve the current crisis on our campus, and in order to unite the university community in challenging the government to resolve the higher education funding crisis at a national level. We call for a peaceful and inclusive process that includes all stakeholders, including academic staff, who are also deeply affected by the current crisis, and who care very deeply about the future of the public university in South Africa.
We call for a solution that allows for the completion of this academic year, without a policed campus and in such a way that student demands and concerns, as well as staff safety and morale, are taken seriously.
ASAWU wishes to reassert its commitment to the resolutions that were taken at our general member meeting: the urgent need for increased public funding for higher education and that universities be considered as a public good; the acceleration of transforming the university and decolonising the learning environment; the complete removal of security forces – be they private or police – from campus; and a cessation of the use of violence and destruction of infrastructure by all parties involved – be it students, private security, or police.
Should any staff need any assistance in response to what happened on campus yesterday, please contact us.
ASAWU EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE