WSF (1996): “Transform The Universities And Technikons”

WSF (1996): “Transform The Universities And Technikons”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 2, number 1, first quarter 1996. Complete PDF is here

Student- worker struggle against continuing racism and bad conditions at the universities and technikons is set to continue in 1996.

WHITES ONLY?

Many Black students cannot afford the high fees, yet too few bursaries and loans are available. Black people are still a minority at the old “White” universities and techs. Some historically Black universities are on the verge of financial and organisational collapse. Many institutions are run by conservative Apartheid- era managements.

PROFESSOR MAKGOBA

Recently, Professor Makgoba of Wits University was accused by 13 senior (mainly White) colleagues of falsifying his CV, and of failing to carry out his administrative duties. Makgoba, the only Black Deputy Vice- Chancellor at Wits, responded with evidence of corruption and incompetence on the part of the 13. He was then suspended for bringing Wits into “public disrepute”.

ON THE GROUND

So far, most of the charges against Makgoba seem unfounded. The Admin also has no credibility amongst Black workers and students because of its failure to genuinely commit itself to transforming Wits. The suspension of Professor Makgoba for criticising Wits is an action typical of a reactionary Admin. that routinely arrests and expels student and worker protesters fighting for transformation.

For all these reasons, workers and students have rallied around Professor Makgoba and demanded a full investigation of the allegations on both sides by a legitimate taskforce. They also demanded an investigation into why the process of change has halted at Wits.

MASS ACTION

Mass actions like pickets have taken place around these demands, and for the lifting of Professor Makgoba’s suspension. We are in a strong position because Admin wants things to quiet down before term starts in February 1996. It has already agreed to lift the suspension and appoint legitimate bodies to investigate all charges.

WHAT WE SAY: now is the time to step up the struggle against racism and to expel the reactionary Admin. We must rely on mass action to win change. Not on the Admin’s investigating teams or on the “democratic government”. The ANC leadership condemned the 1995 student- worker protests and refused to intervene on our side.

WORKERS UNIVERSITY

We cannot rely on a new Admin. to do things for us. Just changing a few faces at the top will not democratise tertiary education. We need real worker- student- staff control of the institutions. At present tertiary education trains privileged managers and experts for big business and the State. We say this must change. Tertiary education must serve the needs of the working class and poor NOT the bosses and rulers. We say: Forward to the Workers University!

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About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I am currently also involved in union education and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented papers at more than 120 conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 3 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and written well over 130 other articles, papers and entries. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. I have several books, including 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014) and 'Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism' (co-written with Michael Schmidt, AK Press 2009).