Repression and mob-violence at UFS
University workers and students continued their protests at the University of the Free State (UFS) today. They were demanding the implementation of last year’s agreement to end outsourcing and demanding the reinstatement of Trevor Shaku, a leader of #OutsourcingMustFall and the Socialist Youth Movement (the youth wing of the Workers and Socialist Party), who was dismissed from his post as a research assistant at the university for his role in the campaign.
Across the country, as protests of workers and students continue across the higher education sector, it is clear that management, no doubt with the approval of the ANC government, are pursuing a strategy of repression. It is clear that the UFS management, in collusion with the police, are trying to behead the campaign at UFS and intimidate workers and students alike. Comrade Trevor has clearly been singled out for victimisation. This a gross trampling of the right to organise and to protest shared by every individual. Escalating their strategy today, Comrade Trevor, along with 34 other students, were arrested by police, in a maelstrom of rubber bullets. At the time of writing these students are still in police cells. This comes days after 27 students were arrested at the University of Pretoria.
Proving that this is indeed a conscious strategy, UFS management has offered to support the release of the arrested students on condition that all protests end and workers return to their posts. This calculated bribery has been rejected by students and workers.
But even this severe state repression was not enough for UFS management. Later in the day a group of students and workers were attacked by white students and their fathers as they passed a rugby match being held on campus. A reactionary white mob, being used to damage the struggles of the working class, was reminiscent of the worse moments of racial polarisation in the struggle against apartheid. Tragically, many of these whites would have been acting against their own class interests in this mindless act. At UFS and at UP, it was the victims of such mob violence that were arrested, not the perpetrators indicating the right-wing agenda shared with the police.
We call for cross class solidarity and organised self-defence against any forces being used to break the struggles of the working class. One of the best features of the #FeesMustFall movement, that inflicted a humiliating defeat on the ANC government over the proposed 2016 fee hikes, was the unity of black and white. Struggle and solidarity overcame racial divisions. We call on white students to mobilise alongside their black brothers and sisters to protest against reactionary attempts to divert this class struggle into a racial conflict. We call on the youth of the townships and the working class of Bloemfontein to come to the defence of the students and campus workers.