PEN SA Calls for Urgent Dialogue About Situation at UKZN

13 Sep 2016
PEN SA Calls for Urgent Dialogue About Situation at UKZN

Statement amended on 19 September 2016.

As the first anniversary of the RhodesMustFall and FeesMustFall movements approach, violence and protest continues at South African universities. Monday, September 5th saw students torching vehicles and police at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN) firing rubber bullets at students at the University’s Westville campus. A female student also reported being raped by a police officer at the Pietermaritzburg campus. The following day students set the Howard Law Library alight in protest, burning books and resulting in the University shutting down until September 19th. Africa is a Country has an excellent analysis written by Richard Pithouse on “The turn to burning in South Africa”.

PEN stands for freedom of expression and advocates for the end of the economic, social and political barriers faced by the majority of South African students in their efforts to acquire a higher education. We are shocked and devastated at the reported sexual assault and by the destruction at the KZN University library.

PEN South Africa condemns the burning of books and the destruction of the Howard Law Library as we do the use of force by the police and by private security services at UKZN and at other universities. We are deeply shocked that the students destroying educational resources such as libraries at universities seem unaware that they are seriously harming their own futures because the damage done has profound effects on the
capacity of those institutions to carry out their educational activities.

We call for communication between national leadership, university management and the student movement to be opened up. Only dialogue can put an end to the violence and find a way forward for the youth of South Africa to have access to a university education. The attainment of a degree is an economic impossibility for so many of South Africa’s young people and the student movement has presented South African educational institutions with a challenge to take on economic inequalities and to work towards creating a society that is inclusive and equal.

We urge South Africa’s leadership – its politicians, particularly the Minister for Higher Education, as well as university management and students – to work towards and to promote a peaceful and lasting resolution to the crisis in South Africa’s universities.

Margie Orford
PEN South Africa

Raymond Louw
PEN South Africa