Mcebo Dlamini: Adam Habib must call for a student assembly, not a referendum

In response to University of the Witwatersrand vice-chancellor Adam Habib’s call for a referendum on whether the university should resume its academic programme on October 3, Mcebo Dlamini, a student protester and former Fees Must Fall leader at Wits, has said that the movement is demanding a student assembly instead.

“He’s scared of a student assembly because a student assembly will say he must come on the ground and media will be there to see the engagements of those who want to go to class and those who want to continue with the protests,” Dlamini told journalists on Tuesday.

He disagreed with the approach of a referendum, which Habib said will be done via SMS among those in the university community on Thursday. Dlamini said that if the vote is done electronically, it would be unclear to see who voted for what, and the concerns of student protesters would not be addressed. He also said that an electronic vote would enable Habib to “manipulate the system”.

“If Habib wants to use dirty tactics and bring a referendum, he must also be prepared for a referendum that says he must go home, because he must be prepared if the students then say ‘we want a referendum to kick you out of this university because we feel that you are a problem and you are the reason for everything that is happening here’,” Dlamini said.

On Tuesday, speculation emerged that Habib would be present on campus to receive a memorandum of demands students had planned to give him on Monday. But the university management said that Habib was not on campus on Tuesday and Dr Puleng Lenka-Bula, the dean of student affairs, would instead receive the memorandum.

“We refuse to give the dean the demands of students because she is not the right person to receive them. She doesn’t have the necessary power to respond to the demands. Why is the vice-chancellor running away from his responsibilities? Why is Adam Habib running away from addressing the students?” Dlamini said.

“What kind of a leader is he that wants to lead us like he is in space? He’s like a ghost.”

Dlamini concluded by saying that the student movement had created two models regarding free education which it planned to hand over to treasury on Friday. The first model addresses how free education can be implemented, while the second presents ways in which universities can cut the costs for tuition. 

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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