6 August 2014
The Human Rights Commission released, what others considered as shocking results, that more than 500 cases of racism in our institutions were reported. Even though we are concerned as the South African Students’ Congress, we are not surprised by this outcome. In fact it is our firm view that many, more cases have not been reported. Just few days after this revelation, our country faces another racist incident that took place at the University of Pretoria, unsurprisingly.
It is our view and that of the majority of students in our country that some of our universities tacitly support, encourage and perpetuate racism. As such, racist incidents in our institutions will not be wished away by so called ‘strong statements’ by university management, or Facebook profile pictures similar to that of Jonathan Jansen. Quasi-disciplinary actions, forums and seminar on racism will never end this deep-rooted phenomenon.
Racism in our universities particularly, the University of Stellenbosch, University of Free State, North West University (Potchefstroom), University of Pretoria, Rhodes University, UCT and Wits is embedded in the rules, policies and practices in these institutions. The very realities that access requirement are designed to exclude the African majority, particularly those from working class and poor families. The requirement such as applications fees and upfront payments (registration), which increase annually, make it exceedingly difficult if not impossible for working class and poor Africans to access these institutions. This is why the organization has this year accelerated its campaign for Free Education through its One Million Signatures Campaign currently running on www.sasco.org.za.
It is very sad that even though the government through NSFAS attempts to mitigate these circumstances, the racist urge in our institutions raises fees unjustifiable in order to deal with the black and African majority. In fact we must be clear to state that this is systematically designed to deal with African and coloured students. This has been made explicitly clear by the recent statistics released by StatsSA, showing that Africans and coloureds have very low participation rates in our institutions. StatsSA recently released a disturbing report, that tell us that only 3.2% of Africans are enrolled with universities in the country who are between 18-29 years. It cannot be correct and justifiable that 20 years into democracy a mere 3.2% of African youth and only 3.1% of coloured youth attends our universities, whilst white students of the same age group account for 18.7%,and Indians/Asians are 9.2%.
The University of Cape Town has again come out clear on its intentions to exclude black students. They have decided to remove race as an admissions criteria, a policy which was designed to ensure the transformation of this Ivory Tower Institution of white privilege. They play to the reactionary and narrative in our country that suggests that race is no longer a criteria for disadvantaged in our country. We believe this is racist, backward and reactionary to the extreme.
Instead of dealing with the endemic crisis of racism in his institution, the University of Free State, Jonathan Jansen has resorted to the easy tweet and convenient Facebook profile picture. It is clear that under his leadership the University of Free State has refused to merge with QwaQwa campus. The QwaQwa campus is under-resourced and under staffed, and systematically relegated for working class and poor Africans. If this is not racism, than the sky is not blue.
The University of Stellenbosch on the other hand remains a reserve for white-Afrikaner privilege, which will take two centuries to transform at the current pace. It is the most backward institution in our country that refuses all attempts to transform. It reproduces white privilege and supremacy. North West University (Potchefstroom) can be best characterized as a stand-alone university for Afrikaner privilege; it is neither interested in transformation nor merging with the “Swart” Mafikeng Campus. The departure of the racist reactionary Vice Chancellor Elloff after the recent Nazi incident is evident of this. He left his mess with another black puppet Vice Chancellor, who has failed to deal with the incident, watering it down. SASCO demands the public release on the report into initiation practices at this university. We believe that the only reason why the council of the university would hide such a report its because of the fact that it exposes the racists and chauvinist nature of the institution. This is a serious case of censorship by a university which is supposed to be a plural center of knowledge production.
So therefore as the South African Students’ Congress we are neither shocked nor surprised by the recent incident at the University of Pretoria. The so-called “blackface” incident, where two white students and their friends depict themselves as black domestics is not only distasteful but also racist to the extreme. Black women in our country continue to suffer from triple oppression as black, female and working class. This incident ridicules the situation of black women in our country and reinforces racist stereotypes about our mothers. SASCO is particularly angered and warns that the patience of black people in our country is quickly diminishing. It is clear to us that the white community assisted by institutions of white privilege, like UP, are teaching white youth to disrespect and poke fun at black suffering. Clearly the myth about reconciliation in our country, propagated by white reactionary media is an illusion.
The continued existence of institutions of white privilege in our country is an untenable crisis. Black students will not fold their arms as their suffering and that of their parents is made fun of. The dignity of Africans cannot be trampled on without consequences to the perpetrators. We have absolutely no confidence in the supposed disciplinary action the university seeks to institute against their precious white students. We will only accept clear action to transform the university, its exclusionary admissions policy, an end to the systematic financial and academic exclusion of black students and transformation of its SENATE, Council and academia. This to us will be an indication that the institution is ready to transform.
We call on the government, particularly the Minister of Higher Education and Training, to take over administration of institutions that refuse to meet South Africa’s transformational agenda, clearly outlined in the White Paper for Post `School Education and Training. We continue to call for the disbandment of the council of the University of Free State and Stellenbosch. We call on Higher Education South Africa (HESA), to take active steps to transform and deal with the systemic crisis of racism in our institutions. Failure to do so will warrant them useful and nothing but a tea club of reactionary buddies.
We will be engaged with our structures to discuss possible action at the University of Pretoria and consult on a nationwide campaign against racism in our institutions and society. We call on workers and students to unite behind the transformation of our institutions in particular and society in general.
Issued by the NEC of SASCO
For more information contact:
Ntuthuko Makhombothi (President): 0718752209
Luzuko Buku (Secretary General): 0718793258