NEWS & ANALYSIS

Wits structures back student protestors - BDS SA

Muhammed Desai says students actions were in line with SRC's adoption of cultural and academic boycott against Israel

MEDIA RELEASE: Statements from Wits University structures in support of 11 Wits students being charged by Wits Management for protesting against Israel concert

Below are statements from two official Wits University structures in support of the 11 Wits University students, including 9 Wits University Student Representative Council (Wits University SRC) members, who are being charged by Wits University Management (under Professors Loyiso Nongxa and Professor Adam Habib) for a non-violent student protest held on the 12th of March against an Israeli-embassy funded concert.

The protest action was embarked-on only after several attempts weeks prior to have the university cancel the event, to which the Wits University Management did not respond. Last year, in 2012 the University of the Witwatersrand's Student Representative Council (Wits University SRC) adopted a cultural and academic boycott of Israel resolution (see here). The call for Wits University management not to allow the 12th of March Israeli-embassy sponsored concert, and the subsequent protest, was in line with and within mandate of this Wits University SRC resolution.

The first statement below is from the Wits University Post Graduate Association (Wits PGA). The second statement is from the Wits University All Residence Council (Wits ARC). Both structures support the demand for all charges to immediately be dropped. Others that have also called on Wits University Management to drop the charges against the student protesters include COSATU, NEHAWU, SADTU, the YCL and several other organizations.

The disciplinary hearing for the 11 Wits University students was due to begin yesterday (Monday the 13th of May) but was successfully postponed to the 16 of July 2013 after request by the legal representative of the 11 charged students.

More information on this issue can be found here (together with all statements and messages of support to the protesting students).

BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL IN SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)

BDS South Africa is a registered Non-Profit Organization. NPO NUMBER: 084 306 NPO BDS South Africa is a registered Public Benefit Organisation with Section 18A status. PBO NUMBER: 930 037 446

Issued by BDS South Africa spokesperson, Muhammed Desai

STATEMENT 1: RIGHT2PROTEST AT WITS UNIVERSITY

Statement by the Wits University Post Graduate Association (PGA), May 13 2013

The Post-Graduate Association (PGA) (a statutory Wits University student body) seeks to add voice to the issue occupying the centre-stage on our Wits campus. We do not only find ourselves challenged by the reactionary forces to defend (disappointingly) the gains of our democracy as enshrined in the constitution, but also called upon to unite as students on campus. It might not be us today, but if we do not raise our opinions we run the risk of being left in the periphery with no one to defend us when we get persecuted tomorrow by the same Wits University Management for being good citizens who are not apologetic for exercising our constitutional rights. The charges against our fellow eleven students (nine Wits University SRC members included) for taking part in a peaceful protest on the 12th of March 2013 are not only lame and ridiculous, they are tarnishing the good image of our beloved institution country-wide.

We understand the event took place during the week-long campaigns on campus by BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel movement), in conjunction with the Progressive Youth Alliance structures (the ANC Youth League, SASCO and YCL) and approved by the university, in raising awareness about the de-humanising apartheid state in Israel against the Palestinians. We also understand that, after the university's undermining decision to host an Israeli pianist on campus during that week to contradict and ridicule these efforts of progressive forces, the Wits University's SRC's continuous attempts to get the university to cancel the event or even get an audience of debating the issue fell on deaf ears, which is not surprising at all, hence the Wits University's SRC-led protest on that given date.

The right to protest was fought and died for by our forefathers against the apartheid regime and the Wits University Management cannot take us back 50 years by insulting our achieved collective gains as a democratic nation guided by a progressive constitution. We cannot, as thus, stand aside as our fellow students are persecuted, the Verwoerdian style, for being good citizens of our country who merely exercised the right to protest peacefully and unarmed. Students were charged for ‘stomping their feet hard, blowing vuvuzelas and chanting' on campus. Those are not only the most shallow and ridiculous charges we have heard; they are very embarrassing in our democratic South Africa. As far as our knowledge, none of these students were charged with physical assaults, damage to property or threats to someone's life. They were just chanting, a protest does not get more peaceful than this. The Wits University PGA thus call on the Wits University Management to drop these charges, which aim at instilling fear across the student community not to raise concerns in future against any form of injustice on campus.

It cannot be that each time students protest, the first and automatic reaction of Wits University Management is through applying charges. We propose the university institute a middle-ground to address disputes in a democratic and civilised manner that reflects how far we have come as a society. We have a long way to go in raising our institution, collectively, to greater heights in standards in relation to the best universities in the world. We should be focusing our efforts and energies towards creating a conducive atmosphere at which students not only thrive academically, but have their constitutional rights acknowledged and protected.

Statement by the Wits University PGA Chairperson, Manoshe Phasha

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STATEMENT 2: ARC Statement on SRC Charges and the Right to Protest campaign

Statement by the Wits University All Residence Council (ARC), May 13 2013

The All Residence Council is in full support of the Right2Protest campaign led by the Wits University Students Representative Council (Wits University SRC). The Wits University SRC was charged for stomping their feet and singing. Not for violence, assault or even intimidation. Are we not allowed to sing on our own campus anymore? Why are we not charged for singing in the shower then? Where is the justice in that?

We cannot allow a situation where the biggest and loudest student voice on campus is suppressed. It is not only silencing the Wits University SRC but it also directly silences us as the Wits University All Residence Council (Wits ARC) and our respective residences as well as the school councils and every student body on campus.

We encourage all our residence students to join the campaign and defend the right to protest. Let us not be bystanders to the injustice that is happening right under our nose...Let us be on the right side of history

This is the same Wits University SRC that supported the residences in the fight against the unfair dismissal of 17 Royal Mnandi workers. This is the very same Wits University SRC that has been fighting against fee increments, academic and financial exclusion - what will happen if we can't now fight against the injustices that are happening on our campus? We can't remain passive and allow Wits University Management to torment our fellow students.

We call upon every residence to send their message of support to the Wits University SRC and demand that management drops the charges. Let us facebook, tweet and ... ask why the Wits University SRC is being charged. Let us make it known that we will never allow to be bullied. Not on our watch! Not on our campus! Not when we have something to say about it.

Issued by the All Residence Council of the University of Witwatersrand

Issued by COSATU, May 14 2013

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