UF calls on Wits to guarantee rights of protest and to end outsourcing

United Front calls on Wits University to guarantee rights of protest and to end policy of outsourcing

The United Front (UF) condemns the actions of Wits University management to punish the workers and students who at the end of May 2015 occupied the office of the Vice-Chancellor in support of MJL workers who have lost their jobs and income.

The workers and students were protesting against the outsourcing of services by Wits University. As a result of outsourcing many workers employed at the University have no job security whatsoever. In particular, Wits contractor MJL Electrical, since January 2015, has failed to pay workers their full salaries and to pay in UIF, tax and provident fund monies despite making deductions from workers’ wages.

Workers are unable to access these benefits. Wits management has now terminated their contract with MJL and the workers were discarded on the 1st of June with no benefits and no wages.

Following the occupation, Wits University sought and was granted an interdict by the court to stop occupation despite the fact that workers and students had by that time voluntarily ended the occupation. The interdict goes further, and is significantly more punitive, than just an order to stop the occupation. It violates students and workers’ constitutional right to protest.

Furthermore, the court granted costs against the students and workers which would render those same workers and students liable for the University’s legal expenses. Expecting students and unemployed workers to pay is ridiculous. By pursuing such an order it affects students ability to study, targets the unemployed, and curbs the right to protest and freedom of expression. How can the University do this?
How can the University be ever regarded as an institution promoting academic freedom? This action by Wits University amounts to severe political repression.

We call on Wits University to stop the effects of this interdict, and to guarantee in writing the rights of workers, students and academics to protest without let or hindrance. We also call on Wits University to end its policy of outsourcing and to provide job security to all workers who provide required and essential services at the university. This policy regards the University as a corporate entity which can easily discard workers at the whims of neo-liberal management dictates.

We call on all trade unions and other civil society organisations to stand with the MJL workers and the Wits Workers Solidarity Committee. We call for sending of protest letters to Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib: email addresses – adam.habib@wits.ac.za and his PA: Ms. Kanina Foss Kanina.Foss@wits.ac.za, fax – 086 726 3064.

FOR COMMENTS, CONTACT:
1. Mazibuko K. Jara: UF National Secretary – 083 987 9633
2. John Appolis: UF Campaigns Coordinator – 073 408 2674
3. Siyabonga Mbuqe: Gauteng UF – 076 889 5459

Statement in support of ‪#‎RhodesMustFall‬ by the United Front:

“Viva the Rhodes must Fall movement against racism and exploitation!!

Over the last two weeks a movement has erupted in South African universities demanding real transformation. Students and staff at the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University and Wits University are leading this charge.

We must be clear about one thing – the struggle is not limited to removing a statue or changing a name. It is about making real social changes – in a country that is the most unequal in the world. South African universities reflect this inequality – racial, gender and class.

It is racial inequality because black academic staff are still in the minority. In 2012, blacks accounted for only 14% of all professors (http://africacheck.org/…/how-many-professors-are-there-in-…/).
It is gender inequality because only 13% of academic staff are women.

It is class inequality because cleaners are employed on a month to month contract and in unacceptable working conditions of harassment and intimidation from managers. They are paid poverty wages. Those employed by labour brokers have no pension or medical aid benefits. The overwhelming majority of the cleaning staff are black (non-white) women – who are often trampled upon by middle-class students of “their” colour. Universities are happy to exploit cheap black labour. This reflects social reality in South Africa.

We need to remember our history. It explains the present. The statue and name of Rhodes, Jameson, Livingstone and others is also, in one way, a reminder that we still have not won. It is used by racists to gloat over the fact that they still own most of this country.

But it is also used by black elites, Cyril Ramaphosa and Patrice Motsepe as a reminder that workers must remain in their place. It is a reminder of the Marikana massacre. Whilst Rhodes stood for exploitation, a falling Rhodes can only be meaningful if it means a fall of the system of death wages, alienation and differential weighting of human value based on so-called skills. Difference, be it blackness of any marker of subaltern (post-colonial) identity is not progressive in itself. Progress is the eternal subversion which has to be inclusive and anti all forms of structures of market, patriarchal homophobic racist authority.

We need to also correct lies that are peddled by racists and capitalists. To quote Rhodes himself; “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available in the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.”

Rhodes sought to expand capitalism in Britain. His private company, the British South Africa Company, stole land from Muizenberg in Cape Town all the way to Kenya. Companies that are the successors (inheritors) of the BSA Company include Amplats in South Africa (platinum), DeBeers in Botswana and Namibia (diamonds), Anglo American in Zimbabwe and Zambia (gold, copper and citrus fruit plantations) – almost half of central and southern Africa!

The UCT Council claims that Rhodes gave the land to the UCT and therefore the UCT needs to decide on transformation. Rhodes did not give away “his” land. He distributed land that has been stolen from Africans. The UCT is built on occupied land. We, the black working class, must decide on transformation – not the UCT Council!

The “Rhodes” scholarship fund does not come from Rhodes. It comes from both the sale of minerals that were looted under the barrel of a gun and the workers that are still exploited today by Anglo and Lonmin. This money belongs to the workers and we want it to fund free education!

As the UCT Workers Support committee argues; “It cannot be that students can only learn if workers suffer. It cannot be that academics can only do their work if workers suffer. It cannot be that there is only education if capitalist bosses can make a profit. But it is all happening here at UCT…Rhodes will fall! UCT must change! Together in struggle and solidarity, workers and students, we must change UCT!”

The movement to get rid of the statues and names of those who forced and continue to force capitalism on us can only do justice by fighting to remove the present system of oppression and exploitation – those who benefit from it and those who govern it. Once we have done so we can move onto creating a society free from the violence of poverty wages, unemployment, homelessness, the police and lack of service delivery.

————————————————————————————————————————–

Issued by the United Front
25 March 2015
Email: uf.wcape@gmail.com
Phone: 071 117 1857 / 078 930 2074 / 076 647 6101