ASAWU calls for a truce for peace and justice

The ASAWU Executive is grateful to all those who came to the Wits Peace Accord event held at Holy Trinity Catholic Church on Wednesday 19 October.

The aim of the event was to start talking about peaceful routes through the current crisis, in service of the larger social justice project of accessible, public, properly funded higher education. The aim was not to present a pre-fabricated peace accord, but to try to open a space where peaceful processes could be considered. Some may argue that there cannot be peace without justice, but we believe that to achieve justice we must be willing to work together peacefully and in good faith. The ideas of peace and justice are not mutually exclusive.

We express our sincere thanks to ASAWU member Prof Vishwas Satgar who convened and organised the event with the knowledge and support of the Executive Committee, and to Jay Naidoo, Adv Thuli Madonsela, Fr Graham Pugin, and Bishop Malusi for attending and speaking on the need for peace and collaboration as a necessary route forward. We thank the Holy Trinity Catholic Church for providing a neutral and safe space in which to host the event. The venue was chosen precisely because it was neutral and safe and it has the same seating capacity as the Wits Great Hall. Continue reading “ASAWU calls for a truce for peace and justice”

ASAWU Statement on Health & Safety


We are deeply concerned about staff and student health and safety during this period of conflict across our campuses. Although most academic staff are keen to assist in ensuring that the academic year is not lost, many academic staff are upset with the heavy police presence on campus. We have been receiving reports from members about how these circumstances are affecting their efforts to help implement the resumption of the academic programme.

We note that teaching is taking place, but under extremely challenging conditions, particularly for those lecturing in venues proximal to the clashes between protesting students and police. Continue reading “ASAWU Statement on Health & Safety”

ASAWU Statement on Events and Protests


Friday marked an unprecedented coming together of academics across South Africa to draw attention to the crisis of education that is sweeping our country due to chronic underfunding by government. With the postponement of the University Assembly that was meant to be held on Friday and now with the announcement of the re-opening of the University tomorrow, we share your concern about the way forward in this moment.

The ASAWU Executive maintains real sympathy with the overarching plight and focus of the protests but not with the tactics being employed. The continued shut down of the academic project disadvantages all students, and particularly those from poor backgrounds that are engaging in higher education as a pathway to a better life. The use of violence, intimidation, and bullying runs counter to creating a space for free exchange of ideas. Continue reading “ASAWU Statement on Events and Protests”

ASAWU Statement on October 10 Re-opening


University management, after a meeting of Council, has decided to re-open the academic program on Monday. You will see from Management’s email that this is under a number of specific conditions. We share colleagues concern about the process of re-opening and the potential for disruption and violence to occur, like last Tuesday. We wish to reaffirm that should colleagues feel their health and safety are at risk that they are within their rights not to come to work. We ask line managers, in particular, Heads of Departments and Schools to be lenient with colleagues who are worried about their safety. Continue reading “ASAWU Statement on October 10 Re-opening”

Speech by Executive Committee Member Daisy Matlou on 7 October, National Day of Action

Amandla, Amandla, Amandla, Matla ke a Rona

Good morning Comrades, fellow unionists, academics, support staff members, students and all.

Comrades, I have to confess:

When I was asked to speak on the fees and funding crisis in education this morning and the way forward, my immediate reaction was Not Me; because, I did not want to travel the memory lane of my generations’ schooling and University experiences of having to fight as children, an unjust Apartheid system which used the Bantu Education Act of 1955 and the University Education Extension Act of 1959 to segregated schools and universities along racial and ethnic lines.

Ours was long distance travel of over 300 – 800 kilometres to our ethnically designated Bush Universities; when we could travel only 20 kilometres from Soweto to Wits or 30 kilometres from Mamelodi to University of Pretoria and so on; mind you; this academic exclusion from universities in our forefathers’ land and birth country. The historically black universities were located in far flung places away from any modern developments to enhance our educational experiences. Like Basic education, the universities were extremely underfunded with an aim of providing Black children with an inferior education that aimed at preventing Africans from competing in the labour market.

It took the youth in 1976 and later supported by the civil societies from the late seventies, into the early nineties to take up to the streets and fight for a better education and justice for all. Many died from the police brutality, other were imprisoned while some went into exile. This painful history is a constant remainder of where we come from and it should not be in vain for what we fought for. Continue reading “Speech by Executive Committee Member Daisy Matlou on 7 October, National Day of Action”

ASAWU Statement on Events of the 4th October


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. Continue reading “ASAWU Statement on Events of the 4th October”

ASAWU Statement on SET Decision


By now you will have received the communique from SET announcing a phased approach to reopening the University with staff returning on 3 October and lectures resuming on 4 October.

We are encouraged by the acknowledgement of SET in respect to the challenge posed by security presence on campus to teaching and learning. We continue to encourage negotiations between SET and student leaders to find a way to bring our community together. Continue reading “ASAWU Statement on SET Decision”

ASAWU Statement on Meetings with Students


On the morning of 3 October three members of the ASAWU executive committee were invited to meet with some students who have played  a leadership role in the #FeesMustFall movement. This is one of several meetings held to attempt to build bridges. We understood the aim of the meeting to be to see whether we could assist in facilitating a way towards negotiations. In the meeting we discussed the role students wanted academic staff to play. We made it clear that academic staff have certain contractual and legal obligations and asked these be acknowledged. At the meeting, the student leaders present clearly stated a willingness to commit to non-violence and intimidation and indicated that they would welcome a continuation of a phased opening of the university. We thought that we had achieved an understanding in this respect.

In the afternoon of the same day, we received reports that some academic staff were intimidated in their offices by protesting students, led by the very same individuals we had met in the morning. Continue reading “ASAWU Statement on Meetings with Students”

ASAWU General Meeting Feedback


The ASAWU Executive held a general meeting for academic staff yesterday at the School of Public Health.  It was the largest ever meeting of academics held by the union with well over 200 participants.  Thanks to all those who came and gave their views.

The meeting was constructive and discussed a range of issues related to the results of our survey conducted last week, but also the current crisis on campus, the matter of public funding for higher education and what we as academics might be able to do in this moment.  A broad set of views were represented at the meeting and the effort was to seek a consensual way forward.

The meeting mandated ASAWU, on behalf of academics at Wits, to call for the following:

·      Increased public funding for higher education. Universities need to be considered as a public good and funding needs to reflect the important role they play in social and economic development. Continue reading “ASAWU General Meeting Feedback”

Invitation by ASAWU Executive


The events at Wits and at other institutions throughout the country this last week no longer allows the illusion that ‘business as usual’ is possible.

Higher education is in crisis.

The violence witnessed at Wits on Monday and Tuesday last week and the discovery of petrol bombs on our campus last Friday, whether brought in by internal or external elements, has added urgency to the need to work towards resolving the crisis.

The survey sent out by ASAWU last week clearly indicated that colleagues are committed to the broad call for increased funding for higher education and willing to engage in finding ways in which this call can be taken forward and realized.

The ASAWU Executive therefore invites you to join us on the 28th September to participate in a discussion of the role we as academics and as an academic union can play in resolving the crisis and the way forward once academic activities resume.

DATE: 28th September 2016
VENUE: Wits School of Public Health (Map attached)
TIME: 12h30

All academic staff, whether members of the union or not, are welcome to attend.
The meeting will focus on practical actions and solutions that staff could collectively take in order to contribute to finding solutions to our current problems.

Whatever the outcome of the current situation on campus, we owe it to ourselves, and the academic project to have an input into how things will move forward and the impact it will have on creating the equitable and just society we seek to create.