Don’t Kill or be Killed for Free Education

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Friday February 06, 2009

Statement distributed by ZACF members and progressive students at the Wits University Orientation Week in response to the presence of the South African National Defence Force and attempts by it to recruit students to the military by offering to pay for their education.


Students and the ZACF condemn the presence of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) Orientation Week, and the attempts by these war-mongering representatives of militarism to recruit students to join the armed forces. If the ill-disciplined behaviour of the SANDF troops stationed in Burundi with the African Union, or those that form part of the Monuc forces in the DRC is anything to go by, reports of which accuse SANDF members of raping teenage girls, then the SANDF should be the last one to be allowed into educational institutions to parade itself as role models for the youth and try to recruit them to its corrupt, violent and patriarchal ranks.

What is worse than the mere presence of the Defence Force in institutions of higher learning – despicable and reminiscent of apartheid as it is – is the fact that it is offering to pay for students university fees, in full, if they join the military. We condemn Wits’ invitation for SANDF to be on campus with the weak excuse that students would have the chance to get additional bursaries, instead of offering free education in the first place. It is clear that Wits is only concerned with making a profit out of its students at all costs, even if it means sending them off to possible death in the DRC or Darfur.

That the SANDF is offering to pay student fees only serves to strengthen our argument that it is, as has always been, the poor and working class who are used as pawns in the imperialist and sub-imperialist wars of the bosses and politicians. The state, and indeed its armed wing, is nothing but a tool of class domination. The South African state is using the prospects of so-called free education, which for some will no doubt be paid for in blood, to lure innocent youth, particularly from the poor and working classes, to defend its sub-imperialist interests on the continent, and those of the capitalists and politicians. It is apparent that most people who can easily afford an education at Wits or other universities, where these scoundrels are no doubt also trying to recruit youngsters to their deaths, would not be interested in enrolling in the military. It is therefore to the sons and daughters of the poor and working poor that the military looks to fill its bloody ranks – those that cannot afford their studies, have to take out big student loans and are heavily indebted to banks, money-lenders and loan-sharks. Those that, even with a university degree, see an uncertain future for themselves in light of economic crises and growing unemployment.

The degrading circumstance in which soldiers are forced to live, submitting themselves to humiliation and dehumanisation at the will of their superiors is known to us. We have all read the stories of soldiers who, unable or unwilling to submit themselves to racist and authoritarian degradation any longer, have turned their weapons on their fellow soldiers and on themselves. We also know that because of the high unemployment rate in South Africa, the army is often the only way to survive for many poor people. We do not condemn poor people for becoming soldiers as it is just another job for them. We condemn the very system we live in that forces people to this decision – the capitalist system (that survives on unemployment) and the state (that needs an army to uphold its power).

We do not know who the SANDF is targeting for recruitment – educated and wealthier people for the officer levels, or working class students for lower-ranking jobs. We know that many poorer people join the army because it provides an opportunity to learn a skill or trade which may help them to find employment after they leave. We appeal to these people, and all people of good conscience to organise, on campus and in their communities, to demand the free quality education that we have been promised. Nobody should have to make the decision of joining the army, preparing themselves to kill or be killed, for an education. We must demand free quality education for all, not just those who join the army. The first step of such a campaign must be to chase the SANDF off the campuses, and from there to form students’ and community assemblies to discuss how to build a strong movement for free quality education and against war and militarism.

For the complete demilitarisation of society!

Students, fight for our promised free education on the campus
and not in a warzone!

Fight the rich, not their wars!

Against capitalism and the state!

Issued by: Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front
and other concerned students and student groups