The vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Adam Habib, hosted the launch of his book about the Fees Must Fall protests in Hyde Park.
The book Rebels and Rage reflects on Habib’s account of the protests which spread to universities throughout the country. The protests first began on the Wits campus at the end of 2015 and Habib shares his critique of student movements and his own view of how free education is possible in South Africa.
Habib explained that it might have been easier to wait until the end of his tenure at the university to publish the book but he feels that it raises an important set of issues which he believes need to be addressed now. He highlighted that one of the purposes of the book is to ‘set the historical record straight’.
An entire chapter is dedicated to how Habib believes free education could be possible in South Africa. “The entire chapter eight shows how this could be something that could work and it shows how the existing models just don’t work and I demonstrate that through a series of analyses and how we can fix that.”
Habib expressed harsh criticisms about the ideas that the student leadership expressed. He also said that, in general, he found that students had brought better ideas to the discussions than the student leadership. “They have been bereft of seriously innovative ideas…the most innovative proposals that came out surrounding refinancing higher education, I didn’t entirely agree with it, came from the students themselves under the leadership of Khaya Sithole,” said Habib.
One of the biggest critiques of Habib’s reaction to the protest was the large presence of police and security guards on the campus. Former students at Wits shared at the book launch how the violence that erupted during the protests had made an impact on them.
“If I was faced with the same circumstances and the same conditions I would make the decision and redeploy police because that was the progressive thing to do and the right thing to do under those conditions,” concluded Habib.
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