#Fees2017: Open letter to the South African ambassador to the United States

South African students and workers in New York are on their way to the South African consulate, where they intend to hand over a letter to the South African ambassador, Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu. The students have come together from various universities, including New York University and Columbia University, to march in solidarity with the #FeesMustFall movements.

The letter contains more than 60 signatures from professors and students alike in a bid to apply pressure on the South African government to listen to students. The students in New York will march from Bryant Park to the South African consulate at 3.30pm (9.30pm in South African time). The student demands emphasise decolonisation, free education and respect for workers. Read the full letter below.

19 October 2016

Dear Mr Mahlangu,

We are a collection of South African students studying at universities abroad, South African citizens living and working in the USA and non-South Africans wanting to show solidarity with the students in South Africa.

Since 2015, our sisters, brothers, family members and friends have been engaged in a protracted call for free decolonised education.

We stand in solidarity with protesting students and workers because we believe that their struggles are just and righteous and their demands are both possible and necessary.

We wish to condemn the militarisation of university campuses and persecution of protesters including the gratuitous violence of private security and police who have been responsible for attacking students and workers with rubber bullets, water cannons and other often lethal forms of crowd control.

We also condemn the arrest of protesters and the suspension and expulsion of students from the university.

In line with the movements’ demands, we call for free decolonised education now. This means that:

1) All primary, secondary and tertiary education is paid for by the state through taxation on the rich. Higher education plays a crucial role in achieving a just and egalitarian society. University fees are exclusionary and perpetuate the extreme economic and social inequalities that continue to be present in South Africa. #FeesMustFall is a movement that demands fee-free education as an essential a building block to a better society.

2) The university is transformed from a colonial and capitalist institution into an educational space that is liberatory and foregrounds struggles against racism, patriarchy and capitalism. It would go well beyond the removal of colonial symbols of oppression to provide a curriculum that is centred on the work of Blacks, workers, women, LGBTI+ and others who have been consistently marginalised from the educational canon.

3) The structure of the university is democratised so that all students and workers (including faculty) have a say over the running of the university – especially the running of the classroom.

4) Workers are treated with dignity and respect. This not only means that outsourcing is banned and that they receive a living wage, but also that workers are embraced socially and intellectually as members of the university community.

5) Police and other forms of social control are banned from university campuses.

We endorse the demands made by the protesting students, staff and workers. Power concedes nothing without demand and the students and workers are making their demands heard – loud and clear. It is time that you and your colleagues in government listen and act.





A luta continua!

Signatories of South Africans living abroad:

Abigail Ramakoaba (City University of London)

Nadia Jardine (Wheaton College, MA)

Zanokuhle Nkosi

Sibonelo Shezi (Richland College, TX)

Mofana Morojele (New York Film Academy, NY)

Ntombikayise Khambule (Fashion Institute of Technology – Italy)

Maya Schkolne (SOAS University of London)

Tshidiso Ramogale (Harvard Law School, MA)

Bonita Bennet (Columbia University, NY)

Zandi Sherman (Rutgers University, NJ)

Setsoakae Thipe (Simmons College, MA)

Vukosi Nkuna

Brett Davidson

Percy Mdunge (Stony Brook University, NY)

Robin Scher

Dmitri Holtzman

Jared Sacks (Columbia University, NY)

Kayum Ahmed (Columbia University, NY)

Laura Phillips (New York University, NY)

Saarah Jappie (Princeton University (NJ)

Dubian Ade

Ciaran Heywood

Jessica Myhill (New York Film Academy, NY)

Caitlin Fleming (New School, NY)

Gaby Georgeson (New York Film Academy, NY)

Esther McFarlane (Columbia University, NY)

Other signatories acting in solidarity:

Prof. Lewis Gordon (University of Connecticut, CT)

Prof. Drucilla Cornell (Rutgers University, NJ)

Dr. Jinny Prais (Institute of African Studies, Columbia University)

Dr. Firoze Manji

Dr. Kathleen Griffiths (CUNY Graduate School, NY)

Basma Radwan (Columbia University)

Shaunna Rodriques (Columbia University)

Prashant Iyengar (Columbia University)

Sitharthan Sriharan (Columbia University)

Bandar Alsaeed (Coumbia University)

Shachaf Polakow (Open University, Israel)

Alexandra Fitzgerald (Harvard Law School, MA)

Rinae Mudzanani

Mo Schmidt

Robert Ascherman (CUNY, NY)

Henry Broege (CUNY, NY)

Chloe Rockarts

James Rosenstein (CUNY, NY)

Robert Tiburzi (CUNY, NY)

Emily Sanderson

Mathew Ghattas (Wheaton College, MA)

Akrofi Akotiah (Wheaton College, MA)

Tony Karera (Wheaton College, MA)

Sohier Mobin (Wheaton College, MA)

Nora Callahan (CUNY, NY)

Barrie Cline

Alexander Shaw

Bawn Beswick (Birkbeck, University of London)

Jeanne Hefez

Sue Heywood

Noura Kiridly (The New School, NY)

Paddy O’Halloran

Anthony Duff (Wheaton College, MA)

Mbali Tyolo

Nicole Brown

Bogosi Morojele

Keshin Vittee

Thobeka Ndlela

Dimakatso Mokgoshi

Hunter Nestadt

Kgomotso Letebele

Bey Thenga

Natalie Jaynes

Natalie Schall (Bryn Mawr College, PA)

Mohamed Wajdi Ben Hammed (Columbia University, NY)

Dominic Walker (Columbia University, NY)

Amelia Herbert (Columbia University, NY)

Andy Pollack

Brittany Herick

Jamila Headley 

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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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