Wits must drop charges against 11 students - NEHAWU

Union says students being unfairly punished for their non-violent protest action against Israeli pianist Yossi Reshef


NEHAWU condemns the decision by the University of Witwatersrand's management to charge 11 students for protesting against an Israeli embassy sponsored concert. We call for the immediate withdrawal of all charges against these students. On the 12th of March 2013, a number of students, led by the university‘s Student Representative Council (SRC), held a non-violent protest action in opposition to the university's decision to host an Israeli pianist Yossi Reshef at the university's theatre.

 The hosting of the concert was a violation of the cultural boycott of Israel as well as the Wits University SRC's support for and endorsement of the cultural boycott of Israel.

This concert was backed by the Israeli-embassy and endorsed by the Zionist lobby groups. We are deeply disturbed that the university management has decided to appease the Zionist lobby and the apologists of the apartheid state of Israel by instituting disciplinary action against the students that protested.

Wits University has shamelessly sacrificed its independence, compromised its reputation and demonstrated a disconcerting level of intolerance by censoring and silencing dissenting voices. The university's tyrannical intimidation of university stakeholders, who hold a different view and speak truth to power, is a sad chapter in a country that benefitted from international solidarity during the darkest days of apartheid.

What is even more disturbing, is the fact that the university has been using strong arm tactics through private security firms and the police to silence and intimidate staff and students of late.NEHAWU calls for an investigation of the allegations that students were subjected to racial profiling, physical assault and racial insults during the protests. These disturbing allegations cannot be ignored and we call on the law enforcement agencies and the department of Higher Education and Training to ascertain what happened and holds those responsible to account.

We expect our universities to be exemplary and to cultivate critical leaders and thinkers, who respect the rights of others and possess moral courage in the face of injustice and terror. Intimidation and victimisation builds and achieves nothing as demonstrated by the old South African apartheid government. We do not expect our universities to resort to antiquated apartheid tactics and inhumane methods to stifle debate and censor dissent. 

Statement issued by Sizwe Pamla, NEHAWU Media Liaison Officer, May 7 2013

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