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Students call on UCT to cut ties with mining company

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In August 2012 South African police opened fire on striking mineworkers at the Lonmin platinum mine at Marikana. The Marikana massacre was the single most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since 1960 in which 34 mineworkers were killed. The incident made world headlines and was compared to the Sharpville massacre of 1960.

On Tuesday, students from the Rhodes Must Fall movement at the University of Cape Town (UCT) held a press conference in which they laid out plans to continue their movement and acknowledge the Marikana massacre

“What we are talking about here is trying to provide solidarity for Marikana, but also fulfilling our core mandate which is to decolonise the University,” said Brian Kamanzi, a member of the movement.

This follows the vandalism at UCT which occurred on Monday, where a war memoriam for those who fell during WWI and WWII was spray painted with words of acknowledgement for what happened at Marikana.

The movement however supports an art collective called ‘Tokolos Stencil’ who has claimed responsibility for the spray painting. They believe it is a form of “creative art” instead of vandalism.

“Rhodes must fall supports the Tokolos Stencil in its creative art at the University and find it problematic that UCT condemned the graffiti, but also acknowledged the Marikana tragedy,” Alex Hotz explained.

“UCT has a connection to the mining industry which is a big part of South Africa’s colonial legacy,” Kamanzi went further.

The movement is continuing with the mission to in their words “decolonise the institution” from what they feel is a Eurocentric curriculum.

“We would want to see a campus that is sponsored by companies that is more reflective of the the country and the values that UCT supposedly purports,” Kamanzi added.

In order to move forward with this plan the movement wants to re-imagine the space and does not agree with the university being sponsored by companies such as Lonmin. Furthermore they added that a judge in the Farlam inquiry who failed to hold the state and private companies accountable for Marikana sits and the university council and the movement is calling for his removal from that position which he holds.

“The engineering buildings holds several placards honouring mining companies and this goes back to our comments earlier in the year that UCT is colluding with elements of the power structures that south Africa is trying to change and therefore UCT itself must change,” Kamazi continued.

The movement is also calling for the renaming of the famous Jameson Hall to Marikana hall.

In a statement on Tuesday, the university’s management called the use of vandalism as an “irresponsible and inappropriate method of protest” that shows “no respect” for the students and staff of the UCT community. While the university encourages and supports freedom of expression, the university said it does not condone defacing buildings and memorials.

With regards to the allegations levelled by the students, the university explained that the UCT Retirement Fund (UCTRF) invests staff contributions on their behalf and according to their instructions, these investments are not connected to UCT. UCTRF holds investments in the mining sector worth more than R201 million out of a total investment of R3.5 billion, according to the UCTRF report for the year ending 30 June 2014 – the most recent reporting period. These investments include shares in Lonmin worth R9,582,722.

“UCTRF trustees are required by law to act independently of the University Council; they appoint an investment manager and do not prescribe what shares may or may not be purchased.”

The statement further reads that the UCT Foundation holds permanent endowments, which are often made to the Foundation and not directly to UCT. The UCT Foundation is an “independent trust’ and its trustees” make decisions independently” of the UCT Council. The financial records of the Foundation are subject to independent audit. The trustees oversee the investment strategy and review the investment performance of the UCT Foundation. They appoint a Joint (as in University and Foundation) Investment Committee (JIC) which is mandated to develop, implement and monitor the Foundation’s investment performance and strategies.

“Lonmin shares totalling R3.9 million were acquired through the UCT Foundation’s global equity fund since 2013, while R1.3 million were disposed of. The Foundation’s total exposure to Lonmin shares expressed as a percentage of the Foundation’s total assets (market value of these shares at 30 June 2015 divided by total Foundation assets) was approximately 0.13% as at 30 June 2015,” UCT stated.

“Justice Ian Farlam is not and has never been a trustee of the UCTRF or the UCT Foundation, nor has he ever been a member of the JIC.” VOC (Umarah Hartley)

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