An open letter to UJ Vice Chancellor Ihron Rensburg

A University of Johannesburg (UJ) student was shot and killed by a security guard at an accredited residence on Saturday. Students link the killing to the ongoing militarisation of the UJ campuses. An anonymous UJ student calls on the VC to resign so that students can feel safe again.

Dear Vice Chancellor,

I write this letter to you in fear and with tears running down my face.

I write to plead with you on behalf of all black students at the University of Johannesburg and all prospective students for 2017. I write this letter to appeal to your conscience and urge you to address the extremely nervous condition of students following the death of a fellow student who was shot by a private security guard.

Professor Rensburg, it is no secret that you rule campus with an iron fist. Many cadres of the SRC and other student movements have been targeted and suspended for mobilising students to join the protest action on campus. How quickly you have forgotten that these are the same methods of intimidation that were used by the apartheid regime to dehumanise our people. I wonder if you remember, as I do, the important role played by students in attaining liberation for the people of South Africa? Why then are you helping to silence the student voices calling for economic liberation and academic equity in our institution?

You have failed to show leadership. You have failed to assure the majority black students that you understand their socio-economic challenges. History will judge you harshly for your anti-black methods of dealing with the genuine efforts by students to transform the university. Last year you chose to employ violent private security who have gone on to assault, intimidate, harass, and now kill a student. Calls from students and lecturers asking you to remove private security from campus and stop the militarisation of our learning space have landed on a deaf ear. You have turned a blind eye to the overwhelming evidence of violence inflicted on students by private security, and now an innocent student has been shot dead. It is too late. We know you will try spin the tragedy and try shift the blame, but it is too late. The blood of a black life is on your hands.

Why have you failed to protect students? Why have you decided that black life is expendable and disposable when white capital is threatened; that white property is more valuable than the black body? Why have you not lead by example and been a VC that calls for decolonial transformation and destruction of all barriers to entry, financial or otherwise, in our lifetime?

I am not politically active on campus. But I am a black child, and as a black child in a lily-white academy I cannot remove myself from political conditions. The politics of #feesmustfall and calls for free decolonised quality education affect me, more than 80% of students at UJ and many others in the country. I would be neglecting my moral obligation if I continued as if everything is normal. South Africa needs to know that nothing has been normal at UJ for a while now. To you we are incapable of thinking for ourselves. You have not called a student assembly to discuss the fees crisis, yet you can attend conferences with other VCs and Ministers as if you know what is going on in the varsity.

I am seriously reconsidering my decision to come back to UJ for my honours degree in 2017. I am faced with the possibility of death on your watch. That reality is serious and scary; it is not normal that my parents worry about my safety when I am on university premises. The university is no longer conducive for academic production. I fear to walk alone as a female on campus because the security presence has a mandate to suspect and victimise rather than to protect. I cannot return to a varsity that has left me psychologically and physically broken. The reality of violence is unbearable. I would not advise any parents to send their kids to the university in 2017 until all private security has been removed.

It is in light of this tragedy that I join the Fees Must Fall activists and the overwhelming majority of students in appealing to whatever is left of your conscience. Please resign immediately and open the space for an uncompromised, competent servant who will fix the damage you have caused. It is time for the position to be occupied by someone who will have the interest of students at heart, who will restore order and confidence in the management of the university, and who will prioritise the calls for free decolonised quality education for all.

On behalf of all students at the University of Johannesburg I wish to say rest in peace to Kelvin Baloyi. I call on the students of the university to unite now more than ever to demand for free education for all. It is now more urgent than ever to take action. Professor Ihron Rensburg, you no longer enjoy confidence from the student body. After this weekend’s killing you should cease to see yourself as our legitimate VC.

Please resign before you turn the university into a war zone.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous in fear of victimisation

Featured image via Rumana Akoob on Facebook