Wits management adopt tough stand on BDS

  • wits prof vilakazi
The management of Wits have made a clear statement on the fact that BDS-supporting “student leaders deliberately misled the management of the University” and the campus’ Palestinian Solidarity Committee lied to administration they got the orienteering club to book main lawns – pre-publicity. This they had done by using the Wits Orienteering Club “to book the lawns for the week under the pretence of other activities.” Read what the tough-talking acting-VC told students today…
by ANT KATZ | Mar 02, 2016

“This kind of disruptive, deceitful action cannot be dealt with through security,” Prof Zeblon Zenzele Vilakazi (pictured above) told the university community today. “We as a university, must hold members of our community to account when they deliberately transgress our rules, policies and procedures. We urge all sections of the university community to remember that rights come with responsibilities.”


The full statement issued by Wits’ Senior Executive Team on Wednesday March 2:

Dear Colleagues and Students

Events on the Library Lawns pertaining to Israeli Apartheid Week

As was reported yesterday, some students held an unsanctioned event on the Library Lawns which highlighted the Palestinian plight. This led to a temporary standoff with security until Professor Zeblon Vilakazi intervened and negotiated a truce. Management’s concern was not with the event, but with the duplicitous way in which it was undertaken and the potential consequences thereof.

Members of the Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee decided to host a series of events in the week before Israeli Apartheid Week. To do this without alerting anyone, they resorted to using members of the Wits Orienteering Club to book the lawns for the week under the pretence of other activities. Yet, they essentially planned to host a series of events that would normally be associated with Israeli Apartheid Week.

In these actions, these student leaders deliberately misled the management of the University. This was particularly irresponsible for it meant that we were not forewarned to put in place the appropriate security measures which we deem important given that violence has broken out at Wits during previous events associated with the Palestinian/Israeli issues. This is why for over two years, we have instated a rule that any Palestinian/Israeli event on the campus must be brought to the attention of the Vice-Chancellor’s Office so that we can take appropriate precautions.
Moreover, the decision to mislead management about this event was particularly dangerous given the current climate in the higher education sector and the deliberate attempt by some forces to bring academic programmes to a close. We have experienced acts of violence, arson, vandalism and malicious damage to property on our own campuses in recent weeks.

There are some student leaders (and others) who deride the threat of violence, but they of course have no responsibility to protect the lives of 34 000 students and thousands of others in the university community.  We have said before and we say again, rights come with responsibilities. Too often some among us demand rights but never accept the responsibilities that should accompany those rights.

There are also concerns about the administrative and organisational implications of this kind of behaviour. If clubs and societies are allowed to mislead management about their activities, it would create administrative and organisational mayhem within the University. Our University establishes rules so that we can coordinate the various activities of the University community. All must be held accountable to these rules, or we risk the rights of various sections of our community being violated  by others who believe that their rights should take precedence. Our Constitution insists that all are equal before the law, and all of us must abide by this fundamental principle of the human community.

We did not forcibly remove the exhibition that was on display yesterday as we felt that it had the potential to heighten political temperatures and threaten the uneasy peace and stability that we have established in recent days. However, we were forced again to bring in additional security to ensure the safety and security of all. Going forward, we expect all students to follow the University’s correct channels, processes and procedures for their events to be considered and approved.
We will in the coming days decide on whether restrictions should be placed on the activities of organisations during Israeli Apartheid Week. We will also place on Council’s agenda the surreptitious way in which decisions and actions were undertaken concerning yesterday’s events, the risks to which the University community were exposed and whether any actions should be taken against individuals and/or clubs and societies. 

This kind of disruptive, deceitful action cannot be dealt with through security. We as a University, must hold members of our community to account when they deliberately transgress our rules, policies and procedures. We urge all sections of the University community to remember that rights come with responsibilities. We also urge them to pursue their rights without compromising the safety and security of our community.

We will also continue to keep the University community informed on developments in this regard.

Senior Executive Team

2 March 2016


  1. 2 nat cheiman 02 Mar
    BDS are LIARS.
  2. 1 mordechai 03 Mar
    and the South African government (supported by the vast majority of the population) are strong supporters of the BDS movement. 


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