||As the sole member of the Socialist Student Movement (SSM) serving on the current Sasco/ANCYL/YCL* run ten member Howard College SRC, in the designation of International and Marketing Officer, I am registering my utmost disgust at the callous conduct and remarks by very senior UKZN Central SRC members in collusion with their Howard College counterparts at yesterday’s (Wednesday 21 November) mass meeting called to discuss gender based violence and security concerns on campus, following numerous incidents of crime, the latest being last Tuesday’s rape of a student.
Furthermore, I distance myself from the grossly disingenuous claims contained in the attached reactionary statement released, without due consultation, by the Howard College SRC. It is, indeed, regrettable, that even on such a sensitive matter, the SRC has, typically, without deliberation, completely ignored the real issue at hand and taken a pro management stance. That even their female ‘comrades’, particularly, on the eve of ‘Sixteen days of activism of no violence against women and children, have rallied behind the male dominated ‘Party line’ and the associated backward tendencies, is unfortunate. Moreover, it is disgraceful that the first and only statement by so-called student leaders regarding the rape incident is not so much about symphathising with a fellow student who has been violated in this most horrendous manner, and to express solidarity with many other students who, understandably, feel their safety is being compromised, but finds something fishy with the justified angry reaction by students and staff.
Insinuations that concerns regarding escalating incidents of violence against women on campus and crime in general emanate from an ‘insidious’ element- of ‘white’ academics- advancing their “political agenda” and resolute on undermining a ‘black’ management are baseless and laughable. Unfortunately, in the ‘new’ South Africa, this is increasingly becoming an easy escape route. Hiding behind racism, to divert attention, so beloved by petty bourgeois nationalists in the government, has proved a convenient and popular manner of dismissing valid concerns. Disappointingly, mainstream student leaders appear not immune from this ‘demon.’
Considering that people from all backgrounds and cultures have registered their dissatisfaction about the shocking manner the private company- very punctual when students are protesting injustices such as financial exclusions- contracted to provide security is dismally failing on this contractual obligation and management’s apparent indifference, the statement by the SRC also smacks of severe nincompoopery, and is a sad indication of the lowest of levels they are prepared to stoop to suck up to management at the expense of students they supposedly represent.
The delusional notion that “We as the SRC have the absolute right to speak and represent students in any matter that concerns students, no one should claim to be messiahs over our students, we say this as the SRC and we are equally students,” should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves. It is an insult to Howard College students who have first hand experience of the kowtowing SRC’s ineffectiveness and scandalous unaccountability. As the minutes of the last SRC would reveal, if they exist at all, the issue of security on campus and the unbecoming behavior of some security personnel was raised by myself, to no avail, following numerous complaints from students.
Consequently, adamant that “enough is enough” the students have bypassed the SRC and teamed up with equally concerned non-sectarian staff members. Amongst many students, like their ‘mentors’ in our national parliament and in other positions of power, for a number of good reasons, SRC members represent nothing more than a bunch of useless aspiring ‘fat cat’ gravy trainers.
Staff members who have played a vital role need to be applauded, and, hopefully, they will not succumb to intimidation and bully boy tactics of the SRC. There is no doubt about the effect of our united action on management’s technocratic and arrogant mentality. While in the past all our desperate pleas have fallen on deaf ears, ultimately, driven by fury and frustration, we have forced the long over due response from the powers that be by communicating our discontent in the only language that complacent bureaucrats understand, mass mobilization.
It is imperative to realize that, the university, as an institution of higher learning, exists because of us, staff and students, and not the high earning bosses. Without staff and students, there would be no university, hence no fat pay cheques. Our concerns and worries, therefore, need to be prioritized before all else! It should also be crystal clear that, Sasco, the ANCYL and the YCL who, in spite of widespread problems affecting students, have never embarked on any form of struggle in recent years, do not speak on behalf of students of Howard College. Overwhelmingly, the students are united in their demand for accountability from management and those responsible for security on campus.
Finally, clearly, the root cause of many of our problems is the neo-liberalism induced corporatisation of the university and the accompanying outsourcing of ‘non-core’ services. Exacerbating matters is the downright incompetence of those who are supposed to represent us. Any long term solutions would have to take these into account.
And, absolutely, if the institutions designed to safeguard our interests and wellbeing are not taking up this crucial responsibility, constitutionally and otherwise, we have every right to do it ourselves.
Percy Ngonyama is a full time postgraduate student on the Howard College campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and SSM member on the SRC.
***South African Student Congress (Sasco), African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), the Young Communist League (YCL)
UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU NATAL
STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE COUNCIL
It is about time that we communicate our position as SRC on the current issue of rape and other security issues affecting our students on campus. Just to unpack on the current issues. We have had a series of cases where female students are experiencing different forms of abuse in different occasions, in our own campus. These include the following cases; a female student held at gun point by a non-student within the premises of the institution, a number of female students have been assaulted (seriously beaten) by non-students in the same premises of the institution, students being mugged on campus and the general theft in the same campus while the management claim that there is security system protecting students from these issues.
If students are living in the environment where such conditions are tolerated by management what could stop rapists to invade our campus and freely rape with no fear and worry of getting caught. If the management claims that the current rape case is a ‘surprise’ to them that would amount to an insult to us as students and student leaders. In the early hours of the morning on the 13th of November 2007 an international students was raped in the Mabel Palmer Residence and the response of the management (RMS particularly) was not satisfactory. We are very unhappy to communicate that the culprit has not been caught but there is a suspect. We must note that a week has gone past since the incident.
As the Howard College SRC, we believe that our students have come to study and improve their lives. However, our students can never study in an environment that is characterized by life-threatening experiences or acts of violence. It is for this reason that we call upon all of our students to unite in fighting these challenges. We further call upon the Risk Management Services to evaluate the services they provide our students.
We condemn any form of women abuse and crime tolerance in this campus. We are very disappointed by the delay on the response from management on these issues. We must not wait for something bad to happen again, let us act now. We confirm full confidence on unity in us as students for the struggle towards safe and conducive environment on our campus.
On the 19th of November, the honorable Deputy Dean of students Dr B.W. Ngcobo tried to administer a platform that would enable students to put forward their grievances around the security system within our campus. What transpired took a regretful and shocking turn when relevant departments responsible for the safety of students and student services at large, were unprepared to respond to such issues. Subsequently we as students governance saw the need to convene a meeting for the 21st of November 2007(Wed, 2pm), Howard Collage Theatre.
As the SRC, we strongly condemn the actions of some of the academics who took advantage of the vulnerability of the issues surrounding safety and security to push for their own political agenda. Our view is that the issue of safety and security must be treated purely as it is. Under no circumstances can we tolerate a situation where certain members of the university community demonstrate signs of racism and sexism using our students who are purely concerned about issues seriously affecting them.
We would appreciate an honest support from staff but cannot afford a situation where staff is fully in charge of student’s matters and use our students to achieve their own objectives as staff, which is not what students want. Why is it now that they develop interest in student matters and want to take over from SRC? Is it the first time there is a serious issue that need urgent attention and solidarity?
We are surprised and equally worried about the mounting interest of academic staff in this issue, given the manner in which they have conducted themselves around this issue. It appears to us that academics are attempting with minimal success though, to abuse our students, claiming to be sympathizing with them. This abuse in this incident shows a lack of tender and care as academics seize this opportunity of this unfortunate incident as means of addressing their own issues and dissatisfaction.
We as the SRC have the absolute right to speak and represent students in any matter that concerns students, no one should claim to be messiahs over our students, we say this as the SRC and we are equally students.
“NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US”