UCT students involved in the occupation of UCT’s administrative building want to continue their stay at the Bremner building, despite being ordered by university management to vacate the premises on Friday.
UCT student Mbali Matandela told News24 on Thursday that the approximately 70 students involved in the occupation movement want to encourage the university to engage with their mandate of transformation.
“We plan to continue the stay because our issues haven’t been met in full,” said Matandela, a student involved in both the Rhodes Must Fall campaign and the occupation movement.
“We want the Mafeje room in Bremner building to continue to be a space for engagement of issues around transformation.”
When asked what the students were still holding out for following the Rhodes statue’s removal from the campus, Matandela said that the protests were always about addressing transformation at the university.
“The university has set up a transformation council, which is essentially taking the issue away from our mandate,” Matandela continued.
“We’re busy strategising around how to approach the university to extend our stay at Bremner building.”
Notice to vacate
Earlier on Thursday, UCT’s management sent a letter to the protesting students ordering them to vacate the Bremner building by 14:00 on Friday.
The university indicated it would approach the high court for an order compelling the students to leave the building if the instruction was ignored.
In a statement written to UCT staff, students and alumni on Friday, Vice Chancellor Dr Max Price said that the protest remained generally peaceful and dignified, despite the reports of ‘harassment’ by some of the students on occasion.
Price said the university tolerated the occupation of the Bremner building in order to allow the decision-making process around the statues proposed removal to take its course.
“Our task has been to defend the idea of a university as a space of debate and not to allow the future of the statue to be determined prior to the conclusion of that discussion,” Price said.
“We believe that this deliberative process to engage UCT stakeholders on the issue of the Rhodes statue and on wider issues of transformation at UCT was successful.”
Had the university brought the SA Police Services into the Bremner building, he continued, it would have ‘escalated the conflict’ before a consensus could be reached.
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, meanwhile, called for the energy behind the Rhodes Must Fall campaign to be harnessed to achieve ‘real transformation’.
“The campaign against symbols of the injustice of our past, along with service delivery protests and public outrage over corruption, reflect the anger of South Africans at the inequalities that continue to plague us,” he said in statement on Friday.
“We must harness the energy being poured into protest into rigorous self-examination and action to expand the current campaigns into a creative, society-wide drive for real transformation.” News24