Stu­dents ques­tion #RhodesMust­Fall

CityPress - - News - BIÉNNE HUIS­MAN bi­enne.huis­man@city­press.co.za

The burn­ing of paint­ings and the racist ex­clu­sion of stu­dents from a din­ing hall at the Univer­sity of Cape Town has started to rat­tle the le­git­i­macy of the #RhodesMust­Fall cam­paign. Some stu­dents in res­i­dences af­fected by the de­struc­tive protests this week said they wanted to get on with their stud­ies. They said they had with­drawn their sup­port for the #RhodesMust­Fall cam­paign and feared for their lives. They were too afraid to let City Press iden­tify them.

Stu­dents said that mem­bers of the #RhodesMust­Fall move­ment took over the food ser­vice in Fuller Hall’s din­ing room.

They barred white, coloured and In­dian stu­dents from en­ter­ing the hall, and served black stu­dents only.

The meal was chicken, rice and cau­li­flower with gravy. Af­ter that, they re­moved paint­ings from the din­ing room’s walls and set them alight in the park­ing lot.

Ivy-cov­ered Fuller Hall houses 229 women stu­dents and shares a din­ing room with nearby Smuts Hall, where 230 male stu­dents live.

City Press spoke to a male res­i­dent of Smuts Hall and a fe­male res­i­dent of Fuller Hall. They were both al­lowed to eat on Tues­day night, but they asked not to be named for fear of in­tim­i­da­tion.

The woman stu­dent, dressed in a Fuller Hall house com­mit­tee T-shirt, said she feared for her life.

The 22-year-old third-year BA so­cial sci­ences stu­dent said: “I have a lot to worry about; home, my stud­ies. I mean I need re­ally good grades to be ac­cepted for hon­ours. I can’t risk par­tic­i­pat­ing in this vi­o­lence.”

She said she had sup­ported the #RhodesMust­Fall move­ment un­til Tues­day.

“They are tak­ing some­thing that was pure and good and turn­ing it into a fight: black against white. It’s that nar­ra­tive, th­ese gen­er­al­i­sa­tions which I don’t like.

“I have white friends, coloured friends and In­dian friends. It was ter­ri­ble to eat while they were watch­ing from out­side. Then Rhodes Must Fall took down the paint­ings in the din­ing room, at least 22 paint­ings, some dat­ing from the 1930s...

“I used to sup­port the #RhodesMust­Fall move­ment and Shackville [a cam­paign to sup­port stu­dents look­ing for ac­com­mo­da­tion], but on Tues­day that changed.”

She has had her own room at Fuller Hall for three years. She said her stud­ies were funded by the univer­sity’s fi­nan­cial aid pro­gramme. Her par­ents, a re­tired po­lice­man and teacher from Eshowe, KwaZulu-Na­tal, con­trib­uted R18 000 a year.

She has ap­plied to have this re­vised as her mother re­tired last year due to ill health, and now both her par­ents can­not af­ford to pay for her stud­ies or those of her two brothers.

One brother stud­ied civil en­gi­neer­ing at UCT, but left in 2013 af­ter he failed. He is set to re­sume his en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies this year at the Cape Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy. How­ever, like many stu­dents at UCT, he has nowhere to stay. “I don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen. I have a huge com­fort­able room, but can’t let him sleep here at Fuller Hall be­cause of the rules. It’s very stress­ful. One can’t re­ally fo­cus on stud­ies when your brother is home­less.”

The 19-year-old male Smuts Hall res­i­dent, a first-year stu­dent from New­cas­tle, KwaZulu-Na­tal, ma­tric­u­lated with seven dis­tinc­tions and an 89% av­er­age last year. He said his ad­mis­sion and ap­pli­ca­tion for fi­nan­cial aid through the univer­sity had been sim­ple, but he was dis­turbed by the Rhodes Must Fall de­vel­op­ments.

“At around 6.45pm, when I got to the din­ing room, there was a whole bunch of peo­ple at the doors, keep­ing some stu­dents out and say­ing: ‘No black child will go hun­gry.’ I was let in.

“We all stood in line ... I had mixed feel­ings be­cause I was hun­gry, but I felt bad for my friends out­side, the In­dian, white and coloured peo­ple.

“Be­fore it got vi­o­lent, I em­pathised with the pro­test­ers. But I don’t agree with the burn­ing of paint­ings and they were rip­ping our stuff off the walls; an­nounce­ments and text­book ad­verts, and so on.”

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