UCT occupiers consider their options
Cape Town - Members of the Rhodes Must Fall movement who have taken over UCT’s Bremner administration building were on Saturday still trying to figure out how to respond to an eviction notice issued by the university’s management.
The students occupied the building, which they have dubbed Azania House, on March 20 and had not left at publication time.
Staff who work there were moved to other buildings following the takeover, while some have been working from home.
Leading the movement, Chumani Maxwele said the group was still “finalising its decision and response” to the notice it received on Friday.
On Thursday the Cecil Rhodes statue was lifted off its foundation and moved off campus.
On Saturrday, Maxwele said the group had been “shocked” to receive an eviction notice from the university registrar.
“We had imagined that, after the removal of Rhodes, the vice-chancellor would come back to us and ask... what the plan of action is,” he said. “But instead we were just woken up by a letter of eviction.”
In response, the university’s management referred Weekend Argus to the lengthy statement sent to students and alumni by UCT Vice-Chancellor Max Price on Friday.
Price wrote that if the group that “now claims the Rhodes Must Fall label” did not vacate the building by 2pm on Friday, university management would have “no choice” but to approach the Western Cape High Court for an order compelling them to do so.
But on Friday the deadline passed without incident.
The occupiers assembled outside their headquarters after the eviction deadline and resolved that they would only leave if the university agreed to a set of demands, including giving them a new premises to meet. They also wanted a written commitment that there would be no disciplinary action taken against students.
Late on Friday night, a sheriff of the court issued an official notice of motion for unlawfully occupying the building.
The motion said the matter would be heard in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.
If the judge agrees with university management that the occupation was illegal, an eviction order would be issued.
Maxwele said the movement had two options. It could either oppose the order in court or leave the building.
He said they would prefer not to turn to the courts, as they knew they could never “win the fight for social justice or racism” via the courts.
“We know we have to engage with the university.”