Wits notice 1994: a sign of the times in student struggles

The early 1990s saw massive and ongoing student protests at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), often joined by workers linked to the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions.  Protests included disruptions, sit-ins  and “Operation Litter,” which (to put it bluntly)  involved turning over rubbish bins, breaking display cases and toilets, setting off fire extinguishers.  Disciplinary actions followed, often providing martyrs and bases for new campaigns. While the key force in these actions was the rebellious Wits branch of the African National Congress-aligned South African National Students Congress (SASCO), other currents were involved; nor was Wits SASCO ideologically homogenous as it provided something of a home of the left; nor did it often take orders from either national SASCO, nor the ANC itself. This was the milieu from which a substantial part of the new South African anarchist movement of the 1990s emerged.

Wits 1994 notice

Above is an official 1994 Wits notice, after an attempt was made to burn down the office of a law lecturer who was testifying against students being charged for the Operation Litter campaign of August 1994. The arson (in which the anarchists had no role), the hearings, the Operation Litter, the role of the police in “investigating”: these do give a sense of the context in which the new anarchist current was being moulded…

 

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