Statement from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz:
Our students, staff and Council are outraged and dismayed at recently reported acts of violence and intimation of fellow Africans by some members of our community in recent days. It is totally unacceptable and must be acted against in the strongest terms.
We call our security services to arrest not only those attacking foreigners but also those brandishing weapons clearly meant to intimidate others. We all must uphold our Constitutional values of respecting diversity and human rights unconditionally. We call on our sectors of society to speak with one, undivided voice against this appalling spectre of violence and intimidation, and work in engaging and educating our communities about their responsibilities in a free society.
At the same time, we are also calling for the development of a more inclusive economic society in South Africa, to break millions of people out of the grip of structural unemployment, poverty and inequality as we believe that this, at least in part, fuels xenophobia.
Our path of economic development has failed so far to create an inclusive society, and we are sitting on a time-bomb. Fresh solutions for inclusive growth and distribution of the fruits of that growth must be found, and all of us have to work towards this goal with a sense of urgency. Failure to do so will erode the social fabric, and fuel internecine violence and social degradation of our communities. However, we must not accept the economic deprivation as a justification for xenophobia. Violence against someone on the basis of national origin or any other marker of social difference is simply unacceptable.
While NMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz (see statement above) and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof Denise Zinn have used Graduation as a platform to announce the university’s abhorrence of what is happening, NMMU students have initiated their own protests against xenophobic attacks presently taking place countrywide.
This includes an Anti-Xenophobia pledge campaign which had gathered more than 3 200 signatures by early today (Friday), and students who have been protesting silently in the rain with their placards denouncing the present violence as visitors arrived for university’s graduation ceremonies.
The South African Student Council-led campaign to gather more than 5000 signatures is moving to each of the university’s five Port Elizabeth campuses. Today, the students visited Missionvale Campus where they were well supported. Tomorrow they will be visiting all the student residences to gather further support.
The silent placard protest received great support via twitter when student Josua Dickinson tweeted: “When I see students protesting in the rain against the #xenophobicattacks instead of statues at @NMMU4U – they got their priorities right”
Furthermore, the university has erected banners at entrances to its campuses showing in no uncertain terms that it is opposed to what is happening.
The university’s Refugee Rights Centre, which assists foreigners in all matters pertaining to the law, has been inundated with requests for help.
“We’ve even had foreigners flee from the violence in Durban, seeking help here in Port Elizabeth because they are so desperate,” says NMMU’s Gwen Wolela, of the Refugee Rights Centre.
NMMU is widely and positively recognised for its diversity – about 8% of its students come from 64 countries around the globe.
Anti-xenophobia pledge signed on the NMMU campuses.
Tel: +27 (0) 41 504 1111
Fax: +27 (0) 41 504 2574 / 2731
PO Box 77000, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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