Serv­ing white in­ter­ests

CityPress - - News -

The move­ment to trans­form Wits Univer­sity has mostly been over­shad­owed by the public spats be­tween stu­dents and vice-chan­cel­lor Adam Habib.

Speak­ing to stu­dent Vuyani Pambo, the nar­ra­tive of black stu­dents feel­ing un­wel­come at the in­sti­tu­tion is much the same as at other univer­si­ties.

The Soweto-born hon­ours stu­dent went to high school in Sand­ton, and was raised by a sin­gle mother and a grand­mother.

He is a mem­ber of Trans­form Wits, which also seeks to change what it sees as a cul­ture that alien­ates black stu­dents at the univer­sity.

“Black stu­dents have to grap­ple with this sense of dis­place­ment that is vi­o­lent and be­lit­tling, to a point where they in­ter­nalise it, and think and be­lieve it them­selves.

“As a re­sult, they fail to fully par­tic­i­pate in ways that could en­hance and de­velop their tal­ents,” said Pambo.

Pambo has also clashed with Habib in his ca­pac­ity as chair­per­son of the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) branch at Wits.

A few weeks ago, Habib sus­pended the EFF branch and some of its mem­bers who were in­volved in an al­ter­ca­tion dur­ing a de­bate on the elec­tion of mem­bers of the stu­dents’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive coun­cil.

The po­lit­i­cal party took the univer­sity to court and the sus­pen­sions were lifted.

But Pambo’s is­sue with Habib is not solely a po­lit­i­cal mat­ter.

“Man­age­ment has been pre­tend­ing to be lis­ten­ing to our calls and has been drag­ging its feet. We have a vice-chan­cel­lor who has been at the heart of a cos­mopoli­tan res­i­dence pol­icy, yet re­serves beds for white stu­dents at the ex­pense of black stu­dents.

“The same vice-chan­cel­lor talks about in­creas­ing the num­ber of white stu­dents on cam­pus to 30%, when the re­al­ity is that this num­ber does not re­flect the de­mo­graph­ics of the coun­try.”

Of all the move­ments, Trans­form Wits is the most politi­cised in terms of the role of po­lit­i­cal par­ties be­ing ac­tive and present in stu­dent pol­i­tics.

De­spite this, the con­cerns of black stu­dents re­main much the same.

“The cur­ricu­lum that we get from these in­sti­tu­tions is alien­at­ing. Black stu­dents can­not find them­selves in the literature they read. Africa is provin­cialised. This is to mean that Africa as a sub­ject mat­ter is dealt with from a Western gaze and very lit­tle read­ing is done on Africa from an African per­spec­tive.

“The univer­sity has ceased to be a place for think­ing and re­think­ing, but has be­come a place in which we blacks get trained to serve white in­ter­ests.

“We need more black lec­tur­ers, es­pe­cially fe­male lec­tur­ers, an Afro­cen­tric cur­ricu­lum and more stu­dent ac­tivism,” said Pambo.

The move­ment has also placed an em­pha­sis on the work­ers and clean­ers at the cam­pus.

“Work­ers [clean­ers and ground staff] con­tinue to be in­vis­i­ble in this space.

“Cam­pus-con­trol se­cu­rity staff mem­bers have not been paid their night-shift al­lowances dat­ing back to 2005 – and there are no con­se­quences for the univer­sity,” said Pambo.

PHOTO: WITS VU­VUZELA

Black POL­I­TICS Vuyani Pambo

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