OPINION | Humairaa Mayet: Wits has a history of stifling voices; Wits University responds | News24

intelligence student humaira mayto Writes that after #FeesMustFall, Witt has become a highly safe and politically clean space in which students are discouraged from actually engaging in activism and political activity. Senior Communications Officer at VITTS buhle zuma In his response to Mayat denies this. Read both scenes below.

on 21st April 2022 Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) held a peaceful sit-in in the campus. Wit PSC members gathered on the bridge in front of the M1 highway. The dharna was organized to raise awareness about the repeated vicious attacks by Israeli occupation forces against worshipers at Al-Aqsa Mosque And this Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

When campus control intervened and tried to stop the protest, about 50 people were waving flags and holding posters on the bridge. At first the security guards demanded to disband the students but soon Got angry and started yelling and threatening the students with disciplinary action,

Founded in 2005, PSC is an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the Palestinian conflict and advocating for Boycott, Divisiveness and Sanctions (BDS) against apartheid Israel.

Past PSC Chairs narrated their own experiences of silencing and policing their activities by Vits Management. In 2013 Wits University’s two vice-chancellors, Professor Adam Habib and Loiso Nongxa, acknowledged that the university had come under financial “pressure from donors who support Israel” and that “there are in fact some individuals who have threatened to withdraw their donations.” ”

suspended suspension

This came after students protested a piano concert funded by the Israeli embassy because it broke a proposal to boycott the Witt University SRC cultural and academic from Israel. Eleven students were charged for peaceful protest and later handed a suspended expulsion through a kangaroo court to appease Israeli interests within the university.

In 2014/15 the Student Clubs and Societies manual and constitution were amended by the Wits management to create a separate procedure for approving events specifically and exclusively relating to Palestine.

Wits Management enables the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) to hold public events at the same time as the International Israel Apartheid Week (an annual international week of Palestinian solidarity), even if it is a deliberate provocation. SAUJS targets not only the PSC but Palestinians at large, refusing to acknowledge Israel’s systematic occupation of Palestinian territory, which has been deemed ‘illegal’ and ‘apartheid’ on several occasions by the United Nations, Amnesty International and all international mainstream human rights organizations.

“If a bizarre rights organization is demonstrating on campus, the university does not go out of its way to accommodate religious organizations that oppose them,” A former member of PSC said.

Read | ‘We stand in solidarity’ – organizations condemn ‘police brutality’ at Witt protests

Witt has a history of suppressing the voice of progressive students. During the #FeesMustFall protests in 2015/16. Wits brought armed police to the compound and deployed private security firms. The students were peaceful and unarmed. Wits military response led to the escalation and unlawful arrest of many students.

Again in 2021, Wits sent security guards and police to stop students protesting the financial boycott. During the Asinmali protest, the police opened fire and fired rubber bullets at the crowd. This resulted in the murder of a bystander, Mthokozisi Ntumbus.,

politically sacred place

For an institution that “claims to be”Reputed for … commitment to social justice in Africa and beyondWitt is doing the exact opposite. After #FeesMustFall, Witt has become a highly safe and politically clean place, with students discouraged from actually engaging in activism and political activity. With the threat of suspension and expulsion, students have to deal with personal security, intelligence protection and police.

We call for a healthy campus spirit of freedom and critical scholarship rooted in our shared humanity, commitment to justice, and international solidarity for all people everywhere. Isn’t that how we, as South Africa, won against the evil system of apartheid? This year Witts is celebrating its centenary, and celebrating “”.intellectually“Student activists and academic freedom, but university management was not progressive during our anti-apartheid struggle and is no longer progressive.

, Humaira Mayotte is the current chair of Wits PSC, a member organization of the South African BDS Coalition.

Wits University responded:

First, Wits University has rejected allegations made by Wits PSC that it represses students who support the Palestinian struggle. Instead, the university provides a forum for diverse voices to be heard, and encourages rational engagement and debate, especially around controversial issues, which is why the university is organized during the Israeli Apartheid/Awareness Week (IAW) for various reasons. Agrees to host clubs and societies. Year.

The allegation that the university favors one student group over another is baseless, as each group is responsible for organizing its own stalls/exhibitions during the same week, they are given equal resources, and in equal amounts The space is allotted. It is up to student groups to persuade their fellow students for their respective positions. The IAW is conducted in dialogue with both groups, where rules of engagement are discussed and negotiated, including discussions on support requirements.

Secondly, the PSC did not inform the University about its intended plans on 21 April 2022, nor applied for permission for picketing or protest, and thus it was an unauthorized event during the graduation session. Why PSC did not follow the rules of the university? Why did he not apply for permission to picket or inform the University about his intention to organize an event on the campus? What if every student club and society does not follow the rules of the university?

Third, it is illegal for any club/society to picket a bridge crossing a freeway. This is a violation of city by-laws, as the distraction can be dangerous for motorists driving under the bridge.

All the historical examples mentioned in the article written by Humaira Mayat are misleading and not factual. For example, some students were found guilty of obstructing a concert nearly ten years ago after an independent investigation – the findings were made public – was not a ‘kangaroo court’. In another example, the author pointed out that the university could influence the South African Police Service. This is not true – matters of public order come under the purview of SAPS. The University brings in personal security when needed to protect people and property when our internal security services officers cannot manage alone.

Buhle Zuma is the Senior Communications Officer at Wits Communications Services.

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