Prof Lourens R van Straden
Tshwane University of Technology
Dear Prof van Straden
I write to you mandated by the joint leadership structures of the TUT SRC who are engaged in the struggle for free education and an end to outsourcing in your university. We met last night (Friday, 04 March) up to this morning. We were able to address two mass meetings on Soshanguve campuses of TUT in this period. The leaders of PASMA, SADESMO, EFF and SCO all engaged us with the view of bringing attention to the serious situations students are faced with and the totally unhelpful response from you and the university management. We were shocked to learn that you have suspended the authentic leaders of the students and basically refused to talk to the SRC. We were shocked to learn that you have decided to divide the student leadership by turning SASCO into prefects who represent not the wishes and interests of students, but rather those of management.
Talking to the students and their leaders we have come to the conclusion that an urgent intervention from you by Sunday would assist in averting events which we cannot predict but which are certain to occur from next week Monday. We were met with disappointment, with despair, and above all by the righteous determination of students to get free education by any means necessary. Needless to say we stand with the students one hundred percent because we know that free education is possible. We implore you to also choose the side of the students and stop being an agent of the ANC government which is denying our children education. You still have the opportunity to choose the side of the students and workers. This opportunity shall not always be there. From our assessment there is little room to play any delaying tactics. The application of apartheid repressive measures will not work. It did not work with PW Botha, it will not work with you.
We saw that your campus is a mini war zone. You have private security on army vehicles harassing students as if they are criminals. We received testimonies of generalised terrorism by these private askaris you have brought onto campus.
VC we didn’t send our children to university to be treated like outlaws. You are the parent of those children away from their homes. You are obliged by your position to treat them as you would treat your own children. You have turned the campus into a militarised space where learning or critical engagement is impossible.
VC, things are changing and they are changing fast in our nation. You may not be aware of these seismic shifts until it’s too late. We call upon you to save the situation and do the right thing. Choose the side of history or go down with those who are destined to go into the dustbin of history with the colonial rot. The demands of the students and workers are not impossible to meet. Your own actions in defence of the violent, exclusionary, capitalist, anti-black system has only served to compound the situation.
We call upon you to the meet following with immediate effect:
1. Lift the suspension on all the student leaders;
2. Drop all charges against student leaders;
3. Implement free education, no student who cannot pay should be forced to pay;
4. Implement insourcing without any further delays, with full employee benefits to all workers;
5. Withdraw private security stationed on campus now.
Prof van Staden, we understand it has been two weeks of general peaceful protest. You have responded in a heavy handed manner. You have left students very little option but to escalate their own struggles because like Pharaoh, you have decided to shut your eyes and ears to the cry of the black students. We saw how leaders of the revolutionary student movement were trying to calm the students to give you and your administration one more chance to show leadership. Take this letter as a friendly warning shot. Meet the demands stated above and avert the incoming inferno. The responsibility of free education is not yours or your administrations’ burden. It’s the responsibility of government. You can now choose to march with the students, workers, and broader South African society, or you can choose to march against these revolutionary forces whose time has come. The choice is yours.
I leave you with Matthew 3:11.
I thank you.
National Convenor of Black First Land First (BLF)