THE BLOG

The Political Home Of The Left -- Or The Left Behind

Student's voices are silenced in what has now become a virtual police state with surveillance cameras at every potential gathering space.

28/03/2017 06:56 SAST
Nardus Engelbrecht/ Gallo Images/ Getty Images

When a white man verbally abuses a black woman in a family restaurant there is a massive outcry, but when a young woman, a student leader is grabbed and manhandled by more than three private security men at a public university; why is this not viewed as violence against women worth creating a twitterstorm about?

What is unfortunate is that this event transpired at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the political home of the left on the 23 March 2017. Once a proud university where the issues of gender-based violence were championed by progressive leaders.

This intellectual space was once a microcosm of what a democratic South Africa could be. Student's voices are silenced in what has now become a virtual police state with surveillance cameras at every potential gathering space. UWC students who once made their voices heard against oppression and injustice with their battle cry "Hek Toe" to advance the struggle of the people (including gender equality) has now effectively been silenced. Now, the home of the political left condones the dismissal of more than 144 security guards by Securitas (an outsourcing company) and turns a blind eye to marginalised students who are unable to receive NSFAS funding. They went from Hek Toe to Bek Toe. Intimidation, threats and acts of violence are the order of the day - students are grabbed by their private parts by private security. One wonders where the private security in collaboration with campus security services got their mandate from.

I was chased by Pro-Events private security ("Black-ants'') under the order of a UWC official to "arrest him", I was able to make it to the student centre when my body gave in and I fell, Private security grabbed me, dragging me across the floor in front of my peers, I was then sexually assaulted when they grabbed my private parts as I was hoisted into the air. The "Black-ants'' are ordered and paid by UWC to treat students in this disgusting manner.

A UWC official told me "we got orders from the national body to arrest students, then they would be sent to Belville South and later to Pollsmoor Prison... last year you would be kept for 7 days, this year its 14 days... you won't be held separately... you'll be with everyone else [amongst criminals]."

I was arrested today because I raised my voice to prevent comrade Gabby Olivier (Leader of the EFFSC at UWC) from being arrested - see my video footage below:

The South Africa that we have today is because of the leadership demonstrated by the likes of Professor Jakes Gerwels' who through his "calm determination" used whatever resources he could muster to make UWC the intellectual home of the left. The apartheid regime viewed UWC as a coloured ghetto. It was the UWC of Prof. Gerwel that created a space for the likes for Former Education Minister Kader Asmal and Former Justice Minister Dullah Omar to work on what was the foundations of the progressive constitution that we have today.

This constitution, that moved us away from the apartheid police state to a democratic society in which freedom of speech, movement and association is guaranteed under the bill of rights. This very same institution has produced hundreds if not thousands of leaders that advance these democratic ideals and are today found in business, government and civil society. It is unfortunate that the products of the intellectual home of the left including those that are currently staff and academics at UWC remain silent on the events at their alma mater. We hope that their voices have not been silenced by old apartheid policies which do not even allow picketing.

When the campus security official referred to "orders from national", I find it difficult to believe that the Jacob Zuma who spent more than 10 years on Robben Island, much of it as hard labour, would agree to silence students of the democratic country he leads today. I find it equally difficult that Dr Blade Nzimande the Minister of Higher Education (DHET) is in agreement that a tertiary institution (which his Ministry subsidises) allows violence against women. Today's events prove that there is a disjuncture between what UWC and the DHET say and do. Will they allow the university to remain a beacon for the advancement of new ideas, as an open intellectual space, and especially a place for the contestation of ideas?

What is most unfortunate is that a young woman from a political party; the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is physically abused and that not even the usually vocal leaders from her own political home raised the alarm. Where are those voices that championed the rights of women? Do they only leave it for 16 days of activism?

Aluta Continua.