From the VC's Desk: Update on Rhodes statue and occupation of Bremner Building

28 March 2015 | Story by Newsroom

From the VC's Desk

28 March 2015

Dear colleagues and students

Herewith an update on the matter of the Rhodes statue and the occupation of the Bremner building by protesting students.

Following my indication to the Student Representative Council earlier in the week that the Senior Leadership Group supported the removal of the statue and that we could bring the Council meeting forward by a week to 8 April, the SRC president indicated that the SRC have agreed to form part of the university process of engagement on the matter of the statue.

On Wednesday evening this week the university assembly saw Jameson Hall and Molly Blackburn Hall overflowing with staff and students. It was a powerful meeting with students and staff expressing opinions about the statue but also broader transformation issues. The overwhelming voice in the hall was certainly one of passionate demand for the removal of the statue.

On Thursday, 26 March, a meeting of the PASS Forum discussed the SLG's proposal that the Rhodes Statue be removed from its current location. Members also raised other issues related to transformation, which we will take further. They also asked that a special email address be established where they (all members of the PASS staff) would be able to register their views on the statue or any broader transformation issue. This e-mail is: passforumcomments@uct.ac.za and all PASS staff are invited to use this channel for their views and comment by 3 April.

On Friday, I tabled a motion to the Senate, on behalf of the SLG, to remove the Rhodes statue from its current position. An amendment was proposed by the SRC to remove the statue permanently from the campus. This amendment was supported as was a further amendment that while awaiting a final decision from the UCT Council and Heritage Western Cape, the statue should be boarded up. The final amended proposal was supported by 181 votes, with one against and three abstentions.

Also on Friday, the Academics Union released a statement confirming their members support for moving the statue. The University Convocation will meet on 7 April to express their view on the matter and Council will make the final decision at a specially called meeting on Wednesday, 8 April 2015.

I would like to remind you that all staff and students can still raise their views and opinions until 3 April at the email address: haveyoursay@uct.ac.za

It is three weeks since the protest action began and one week since the occupation of parts of the Bremner Building. A group of between 30 and up to 300 people gather from time to time on the steps, occupy various rooms in Bremner and protest by singing, drumming, and dancing at various times of the day. About a hundred students sleep overnight in the building. The students also engage in many educational activities and the Mafeje room is indeed a vibrant, argumentative space with lectures, films, plays, discussions, sharing experiences and strategy. Although most administrative sections in Bremner have continued to work, there has been considerable noise and disruption throughout the building and occasionally staff have been allowed to work from home or from offices in other buildings. This has undoubtedly inconvenienced them and people trying to contact the Bremner staff, but I particularly want to express my appreciation to the Bremner staff for their loyalty, patience, and assistance during this period.

Yours sincerely

Dr Max Price
Vice-Chancellor


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