Wits students call for apartheid legacy statues to be removed from the city
Johannesburg - As Wits students continue to protest for free education, they are also calling for apartheid legacy statues to be removed from the city.
Students took matters into their own hands as they attempted to remove a gold mining statue outside the City of Joburg’s offices in Braamfontein.
Several students attempted to tear down The Miners’ Monument , with demonstrators telling the media that the act of destruction was a symbolic gesture to ‘decolonise education’.
The monument was erected in 1964 and pays tribute to Johannesburg’s mining origins.
The statue was set alight by protesters, and ropes were placed around the necks of the men immortalised in the statue in an attempt to bring the statue down.
Initially a student carrying a bottle with a flammable liquid approached the statue, sprinkled the liquid around it and set it on fire. The fire did not destroy it and as they were busy pulling at it, Joburg metro police officers arrived.
Police intervened and dispersed the crowd before the statue could be brought down.
The protesters attempt to remove the statue has created a stir on social media with many South Africans taking to Twitter to express their horror at the action by the protesters with many criticising the students saying their actions cause them to lose public sympathy and asking what statues had to do with free education.
After their failed attempt at removing the monument, protesters then headed to Jorrisen and Bertha Street in Braamfontein where they blockaded roads and burnt tyres.
The students are challenging the university’s financial aid policies, which are said to have excluded a great number of students.
On Wednesday, Mthokozisi Ntumba was shot and killed during clashes between police and protesting students. Ntumba, 35, had just left a medical centre in Braamfontein when he was caught in the crossfire and allegedly shot by the police.
Two student journalists, Nondumiso Lehutso and Aphelele Buqwane, who work for the Vow FM (Voice of Wits FM) and Wits Vuvuzela, a student newspaper, were also shot with rubber bullets while reporting on the protests.
The following day, students marched to the African National Congress's (ANC) headquarters, as well as the Constitutional Court, to hand over their list of demands.
Wits University’s Student Representative Council (SRC) President Mpendulo Mfeka said their lawyers were working on an application for direct access to the Constitutional Court to demand that government be forced to provide free and decolonised education.
He said it was likely that this application would be launched next week.
“We are encouraging every lawyer who has an activist in them to try and reach out to us to help in launching this application. Every lawyer in this country must play their role,” Mfeka told the media yesterday.
SRC deputy president Sthembiso Dabula added that they are prepared to take the fight over fees nationwide.
“We are all facing the same issues. Financial exclusion is an issue of most universities in the country. We need to join forces to do it,” she said.