UCT, Wits join global student movement and establishes encampments for Palestine

UCT students set up their encampments, joining global student movement in support of Palestine. Picture: Suppled

UCT students set up their encampments, joining global student movement in support of Palestine. Picture: Suppled

Published May 18, 2024


Cape Town - On the day dedicated to commemorating the Nakba “the catastrophe”, UCT students set up its encampment in solidarity with the people of Palestine, joining a global movement led by students and joined by academic and other staff, calling for their institutions to be transparent about their links to Israel and to divest and cut ties with Israel or Israeli-linked institutions.

At UCT, the call was led by UCT students, who form part of the wider UCT4Palestine coalition. The encampment has grown to around 10 tents on Upper campus.

UCT law student and UCT4Palestine member Roomaan Leach said the action, which started on Wednesday, was to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Nakba. The action was also to highlight the ongoing Nakba, noting what was currently happening in Gaza far exceeded the Nakba of 1948 in terms of deaths, displacement, and destruction.

“We are aiming to educate, mourn, conscientise, rage, all at once ... We will also be discussing how we, as students, would like to see the transformation of UCT in the upcoming semester,” Leach said.

“Finally, we want all eyes on Rafah. There are no universities left in Gaza and now Rafah, the alleged safe zone, is being bombed. We are entering the final stages of a genocide and regardless how powerless we might feel, Palestinians have not lost hope and so neither will we.”

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university has noted the encampment set up on Upper Campus.

“UCT has always upheld the right by any members of the campus community to embark on peaceful and lawful protest. An encampment is regarded as one form of such protest.”

He said the university executive has not formally engaged with the students or received any correspondence from them.

The movement which has seen a large number of tertiary education institutions joining, has been referred to as the “student intifada” or student uprising movement.

At the start of this week, students at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg set up their “Wits Liberated Zone” in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

The encampment began with a handful of tents, around five, and grew to about 10-20 tents over the course of the week.

Wits Final year student Noxolo Nxele said, students at the encampment have experienced intimidation however there has not been a move to dismantle the encampment just yet.

On Tuesday, a marquee donated by parents and alumni for students to sleep in was dismantled by the university, by force, Nxele said.

“The activities of the encampment vary from day to day but they are based on the idea of the camp being a liberated zone, with the space representing a reimagined society. So we help each other set up and clean up, we share resources ranging from food to blankets and other things. And then we have talks from guests, like Steven Friedman recently came and then we have an art zone where we do art related to the cause.”