Sekhukhune College: Anti-democratic police crackdown
On Friday 20 May, police arrested three students, all women, for alleged public violence at the CS Barlow campus of Sekhukhune TVET College near Groblersdaal. The three students had been involved in a protest outside of their college relating to the undemocratic suppression of the SRC election results, which involved the blocking of the campus gate.
The police detained the three over the entire weekend denying fellow students, and even the local ward councillor, from seeing them. Other student leaders are now fearful of arrest.
The heavy-handed police response follows the burning of two cars at CS Barlow campus on Tuesday 17 May. The fire was extinguished before becoming serious. On Sunday 22 May, a fire was set at CS Barlow’s Student Simulation Centre and a number of window’s broken. Again, fortunately, the fire was extinguished before serious damage could be done.
It is important to stress that neither of these incidents took place around the 17 May student protest. That protest was the continuation of months of protest against the college management’s undemocratic suppression of the SRC election results of February. This arose from the management’s unhappiness that since 2012, the new and politically independent Sekhukhune Express student group displaced SASCO, who were in bed with management, and have won a majority every year since for their tireless work in defending and promoting the interests of students. With the delays in the release of February’s SRC results, management has clearly decided: if you can’t beat them at the ballot box – suspend democracy!
Hamilton Mzwandile Bolotini, a former Express leader and now a Limpopo co-ordinator for the Socialist Youth Movement (SYM), said, “There is no indication yet, who was responsible for the attempted arson at CS Barlow. But Sekhukhune Express has been very clear that it firmly opposes the destruction of educational facilities and burning of property. We have even appeared on Sekhukhune FM local radio and publicly stated that position. The police have clearly decided that because they have failed to catch the perpetrators of that arson, they will punish the students instead; students protesting peacefully, fighting for the democratic rights of students. What we have here is collective punishment for the crimes of individuals we do not even no. It is unacceptable”
The SYM has mobilised lawyers and will fight to defend those students who are being victimised for the police. SYM fully supports the struggle of Sekhukhune Express for democracy at CS Barlow campus.