Following the wave of decolonial rage incited and ignited by the #RhodesMustFall movement, we have been consistently misunderstood, misrepresented, silenced and intimidated by wolves in sheep’s clothing- the colonial institutions we are learning to deconstruct.
In the shadow of the anniversary of the massacre of Marikana, #RhodesMustFall will relentlessly drive forward the project of decolonisation to its logical conclusion. The University of Cape Town, as an integral part of the machinery of colonialism, is deeply implicated in the events of Marikana, and we are here, if only to break that machinery into pieces.
The massacre of Marikana lies at the center of the problem of South Africa. The collusion of the state and white monopoly capital has not been clearer since the negotiated settlement that formed the nightmare that is contemporary South Africa- the ‘new’ dispensation.
On Thursday, August 16th, South African Police Services killed 34 protesters at a platinum mine, owned by the Lonmin company, and located in a town called Marikana. This display of police brutality was targeted at protestors who were fighting for a living wage.
The tragedy of this expression of state violence must be historicised and contextualised. In amidst the nuances and contradictions of the details of the massacre, the #RhodesMustFall movement echoes the call to target the roots of the tree, and by the roots, we explicitly refer to the violence of a) South Africa, b) the state, and c) it’s police, as an underpinning and unholy trinity of our nation’s (dys)function.
As a movement standing for the notion that ‘Rhodes’- as a symbol of the colonial situation of our nation- must fall, it is with bittersweet irony that we discover that the London Stock Exchange listed company, Lomnin, was a former division of the company known as LonRho (London Rhodes).
Without decolonisation, these structures will continue to demolish post-1994 reforms as they move forward with their colonial objectives. In the words of the revolutionary, Frantz Fanon, we remember –
“Colonialism hardly ever exploits the whole of a country. It contents itself with bringing to light the natural resources, which it extracts, and exports to meet the needs of the mother country’s industries, thereby allowing certain sectors of the colony to become relatively rich. But the rest of the colony follows its path of under-development and poverty, or at all events, sinks into it more deeply.”
So what does this have to do with UCT?”
#RhodesMustFall, as we have articulated since our inception, has identified the University of Cape Town as amongst the key spaces and institutions that uphold the criminal status quo in which we find ourselves today. Through the legacy of the likes of Cecil John Rhodes, we have endeavoured to dig up the thinly veiled web of wealth, domination and violence that UCT has continuously benefitted from since its establishment.
In this, our next phase, we vow to hold the university accountable for its relationship to the unending violence against black bodies in Azania. It is an open secret that the University of Cape Town has, for several years, invested millions in mining corporations, in particular, Lonmin, through its retirement annuities. This has remained unchanged since the tragedy of Marikana.
We therefore encourage the public to work collectively in requesting the financial records of this institution because in moving forward, transparency is key.
The enormous financial contributions made by the mining sector to the university have, of course, come at a cost. The impact on knowledge production is most visceral in the engineering, economics and politics departments who house many programmes that propagate a neo-liberal conception of development and society that does little more than prepare them for careers and professions that exist to preserve the status quo and generate white monopoly capital. We note with disdain the particular deficiencies in the UCT economics department that has been established as a factory for the kinds of uncritical capitalistic thinking that will ensure that the events of Marikana will be repeated.
And of this we are certain:
Without decolonisation, Marikana will happen again.
As a self-avowed elite institution, UCT has garnered and fostered close relationships with multinational corporations who arrive at our doorstep with Trojan horses at career fairs, and on our donor acknowledgement boards. Many UCT graduates are granted safe passage into these organisations, while during education as students, are structurally and violently denied the information and history of the ground upon which they stand. The consequence is the repeated misdirection of potential skill, energy and passion away from the benefit of the majority of South Africans and toward the ends of white monopoly capital.
To further demonstrate the complicity of the ivory tower of UCT, we call to attention the presence of Judge Iam Farlam, the chair of the Marikana inquiry commission, on the university council. The #RhodesMustFall movement calls for the immediate removal of Judge Ian Farlam from council. This arises firstly out of a conflict of interest, as evidenced by the connections between Lonmin and UCT, but crucially as a response to the conclusions drawn by Judge Farlam in his report as highlighted below:
“The evidence shows -(a) that the tragic events at Marikana are rooted in widespread labour disputes in the area, particularly, at Lonmin’s Karee mine and at the nearby Impala Platinum Mine (‘Implats’) which were characterized by violence, intimidation and loss of life and the undermining of agreed collective bargaining processes; and (b) that the tragic events that occurred during the period 12 to 16 August 2012 originated from the decision and conduct of the strikers in embarking on an unprotected strike and in enforcing the strike by violence and intimidation, using dangerous weapons for the purpose”.
The conclusion listed above clearly places the root responsibility of the escalation of Marikana’s violence onto a disinherited black working class, which itself chooses to overlook the continual violence of the establishment of the mines themselves, and their historical role in the class formation and racialisation of African peoples. This is a tragedy of devastating gendered consequence, but this truth is unsurprisingly invisibilised by the power structure whose mobility is reliant on constructed and upheld ‘black dysfunction’.
Judge Ian Farlam failed to hold to account the state’s involvement in the massacre of Marikana and failed to identify the root of the violence that resulted in the murder of 34 mine workers. His decision and participation in this case must be problematised, as he sits on a governance structure that makes financial decisions regarding investments of Lomnin, (amongst others) the company involved in, and criminally complicit in this case.
The #RhodesMustFall collective reminds the UCT community in particular, that we are presently participating in the exploitation of our own workers. The struggle of the workers here is no different to those at Marikana. They demand a decent living wage of R10 500, as outsourced workers who are struggling for dignity, as they continue to prop up a university that celebrates its position as ‘the top in Africa’. We understand it as one whose ‘success’ lies purely in its upholding of the status quo.
#RhodesMustFall demand the immediate renaming of the Jameson Memorial Hall to Marikana Memorial Hall, the removal of Judge Ian Farlam from council, a statement from the Vice Chancellor condemning the massacre, and the report and submission of a dossier detailing UCT’s relationship to mining corporations in Southern Africa.