Independent Online

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by locationView market indicators

About UWC’s 'eviction' of students: Let the truth be known

Student leaders address students after the evictions at UWC. Picture: Supplied

Student leaders address students after the evictions at UWC. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 31, 2022


The Cape Argus has provided UWC with a copy of communication by Sinazo Raphahlela to share their response to the comments made. Raphahlela’s piece can be seen below, and the UWC’s response can be found here.

Story continues below Advertisement

’Let the truth be known’

Sinazo Raphahlela

It was violent, brutal and unlawful. Criminal violence was used against UWC students at Hector Petersen Residence (HPR) on December 22.

They were aggressively evicted without a court order on December 23, two days before Christmas. This unlawful eviction was on the same day that their lawyer, Barnabas Xulu, filed an urgent interdict in the Western Cape High Court.

Luyanda Nako was shot in the face and back. He is permanently disfigured. Nombulelo Shinta was shot in her eye and thigh. She may never recover the full use of her eyesight.

Other students who were shot at were also beaten, tasered, peppersprayed and physically dragged off the grounds of HPR. Within two hours after the lawyer had consulted with students through the metal wire gate, violence was used against them.

Story continues below Advertisement

Shockingly, a few hours before the matter went before Judge Deidre Kusevitsky, students were unlawfully evicted with a level of violence that was frightening. Video and oral evidence of the forceful evictions exist. These forced removals were to ensure that no one would be on the premises when the matter was heard in the high court.

The violence and unholy urgency with which evictions were implemented without a court order confirmed to me that the law was knowingly broken. If students had shot and assaulted senior management, many of them would be in jail facing criminal charges. They would be condemned.

Race, gender and class bias are evident in this matter: Rights of black students from poor working-class homes can be violated with impunity. High-flyer spin doctors then twist the truth, Stratcom-style.

Story continues below Advertisement

UWC has a policy/practice that allows students to stay at the residences during holidays for research. Categories of students evicted include Post-doctoral, Doctoral, Masters and those doing Honours. University administrators, without consulting those affected, decided that all postgraduate students must be removed from the residences so that its Covid19 vaccination policy could be implemented. There was panic as the UWC security used threats and intimidation against individual students.

International students were specifically targeted. This raised concerns about xenophobia as one of the underlying possibilities for the aggression against students from Africa.

At first, students were told the removal was for maintenance reasons. However, a UWC communiqué declared on December 21 that “The interim policy states... only students who are vaccinated may access campus, attend university events on campus and be able to stay in university residences.” The adoption of this controversial policy on November 25 by the UWC Council and its brutal implementation opened the way for criminal violence and unlawful eviction without a court order.

Story continues below Advertisement

Uncomfortable facts that cannot be hidden: Judge Nathan Erasmus is the chairperson of the UWC Council, (highest decision-making authority) of the university. He chaired the meeting that accepted the Interim Policy but implemented it as a permanent policy.

From transcripts of the December 23 court records, the legal team of UWC requested that Judge Erasmus be accepted as the mediator. They did not disclose to Judge Kusevitsky or the lawyers acting for the HPR students that Judge Erasmus was uniquely compromised. He is also the head of the executive authority of the perpetrating institution, UWC, which harmed the students. The same applies to the UWC Rector, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, who is the administrative head of the university. They both accept applause when academics publish research and increase the standing of the university as a result of its academic successes. In the same way, both of them must be held accountable as the executive leaders of UWC.

At the first opportunity to speak when the scheduled mediation convened on December 28, the lawyers acting on a direct mandate from the HPR students rejected Judge Nathan Erasmus as the mediator. At no stage was there a mediation. Mediation can only be valid when the parties accept a mediator as independent, ethical and impartial and someone in whom they can place their trust. I was present with the student leaders who remained with their lawyers throughout the scheduled mediation.

As the president of the convocation and the representative of all graduates of UWC, I was called upon to protect the postgraduate students. I was on the HPR premises and witnessed first-hand the uncaring and violent behaviour of the security forces of the university, dressed in military-style uniforms. These apartheid tactics were used against innocent students who were dignified and peaceful.

I make a public appeal to Judge Erasmus and the council, to be the leader of ALL the stakeholders of the university. Stop blindly accepting the version of senior management, one of the stakeholders.

Three previous high court cases ruled UWC leadership conduct unlawful: 2014, Judge Schippers; 2016 Judge Gamble; and 2020 Judge Kollapen. I invite you to meet with me and the three former presidents of UWC Convocation.

You do not have to agree with our views but I ask that you hear us.

* Sinazo Raphahlela is the president of the UWC Convocation.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

Do you have something on your mind; or want to comment on the big stories of the day? We would love to hear from you. Please send your letters to [email protected]

All letters to be considered for publication, must contain full names, addresses and contact details (not for publication).