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CSSR condemns police brutality in response to protests

Date Released: Thu, 29 September 2016 09:10 +0200

Members of the Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction strongly condemn the police brutality witnessed on our campus yesterday, 28 September. While we condemn violence in any form – physical and sexual – we believe that the police, who have the mandate to protect all people living in South Africa, need to exercise particular restraint and to employ all means necessary to de-escalate tense situations.

We call on the government and management at all higher education institutions to listen carefully and deeply to students. The student movement that has emerged over the last 18 or so months, including #RhodesMustFall, the Black Students’ Movement, #RUReferencList and #FeesMustFall, while emphasising different issues, has pointed a fundamental fact of our society: twenty-two years of democracy has failed to see a significant shift in the deep social inequities that fracture our society along the lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability and location. To think that the protests can be dealt with swiftly or that particular issues raised by students have no legitimacy is to miss the point that the student movement is fundamentality about social justice.

Threats to close universities, whether made by government (as in Gwede Mantashe’s statement) or university management, with the implication that this will teach students a lesson, demonstrate a failure to understand that such a move will have deep social consequences across the country. We urge management and academic staff to think of creative ways of accommodating the call: “protest AND pass”. Teaching and learning can take place in a number of forms, and need not include face to face contact that simply increases the chances of tensions escalating into violence.

Given the high levels of tension on our campus, we call on the University management to show leadership in de-escalating conflict. Gestures of good will are needed (these could include, for example, amnesty for peaceful lecture disruptions, restorative justice processes in cases where member of the university community lay charges of harassment against protesting students, and assisting students who have been arrested).

Source:Catriona Macleod