University students occupy building in stand against racism

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Student protesters yesterday escalated their Rhodes Must Fall campaign when they stormed into occupied the main administration building at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Defying UCT vice-chancellor Max Price, student cut short his speech when they took over the Bremner Building where the university’s leaders have offices.

This follows student’s calls over the last two weeks for the removal from the campus of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes. Students opposing the statue said Rhodes reminded them of colonisation and what they called institutional racism at UCT.

UCT students occupy the Bremner building at the university yesterday, in protest of the Cecil John Rhodes statue on campus. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

UCT students occupy the Bremner building at the university yesterday, in protest of the Cecil John Rhodes statue on campus. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Ramabina Mahapa, president of the Student Representative Council, said they would occupy Bremner until tonight (SATURDAY).

“We will be engaging on what it means it means to be black. We will also decide on a plan of action going forward. We are serious about our demands. We want a date for when the statue will be removed,” said Mahapa.

Price said he would speak to the university’s council on April 15 about the statue. He said the university’s leaders would decided only in four weeks on whether or not the statue would be removed.

Students were angered when Price told them a date had not yet been decided when the statue would be removed – or if at all. Students turned off several times the microphone he was speaking on.

He said the council “might not agree with my position” which is that the Rhodes statue should be moved from its current position.

UCT students share their opinions about the Cecil John Rhodes statue at the university. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

UCT students share their opinions about the Cecil John Rhodes statue at the university. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“I will see if I can persuade them if the statue can be moved. Not removed, but moved,” said Price.

“Not all students have the same view of these students. Thousands of students who are not part of this campaign must be brought along and have an opportunity to express their views.

“We are going to organise a teach-in and get the students talking about what is happening.”

Student leaders were less interested though in a teach-in or further debate, as they echoed their demands made previously.

Keenan Hendricks, speaker of the UCT student parliament, said the statue could be “put in a museum”.

“We don’t care where you put it. You can put it your backyard. But it must go,” he said.

He added: “This is not just about the statue. Just because this statue will be removed, and it will be removed, doesn’t change the institutional racism at the university. It doesn’t change the fact that black voices are still undermined at this university.

UCT students inside the Bremner building with their demand that Rhodes Must Fall. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

UCT students inside the Bremner building with their demand that Rhodes Must Fall. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“It doesn’t change the fact that staff transformation is not happening fast enough. We will no longer accept the terms of engagement dictated to us. We have decided this statue and racism must go.”

Naledi Maponopono, provincial secretary of the student group Sasco, said their campaign would extend beyond UCT.

“We don’t say Rhodes must fall. We say he fell a long time ago but UCT resuscitated him from the dead and shoved him in our faces. We are clear that Rhodes is not worthy of being resuscitated from the dead,” she said.

“We will not be disgusted every day we go to school by the face of a racist, colonialist and murderer. We have caught the fever of transformation.”

She said Sasco would also lobby for the changing of the names of residences at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology if it reflected “racists”.

“We want to tell Stellenbosch, don’t relax there. You are also going to fall,” she said.

Andile Lile, chairperson of toilet protest group Ses’Khona, also addressed the students.

“We are here to support the student movement. We support anything that fights against discrimination and racism,” said Lilil

“This institution has marginalised black students. It was meant only for white supremacy. We must fight against that tendency. We are all South Africans.

“Let’s take that statue (Rhodes) away from UCT. Let’s put people who fought for the people (in its place).”

Price meanwhile said that UCT would not press ahead with charges against student Chumani Maxhele who flung human waste on the Rhodes statue earlier this month.

Maxhele faces an assault charge though after he allegedly attacked a security officer after he had thrown faeces on the statue.

This article was published on page one of the Weekend Argus newspaper on March 21 2015. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

This article was published on page one of the Weekend Argus newspaper on March 21 2015. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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