We condemn the recent unilateral decision by Wits management to no longer accept many Swazi students’ medical aid provider, Swazi Med, for the current academic year. This is an unfair move by the university so close to the registration period. It means an additional burden on students from one of the poorest and most authoritarian states in the world, many of whom come from poor backgrounds and study in South Africa not out of choice but necessity.
International students have to pay their full fees and medical aid for the whole year prior to registration which makes it nearly impossible for poor and working class students to enrol.
Unfortunately, this attack on poor students is not an isolated incident but another move by the university in its programme of neo-liberal restructuring. This started in 2000 when the university’s “non-core” services were privatised. Soon after, upfront payments were introduced and have continued to rise steeply ever since.
This continuing process of corporatisation has turned the university into just another business designed to make money out of students instead of providing them with decent education. Students who cannot pay are excluded by the thousands. Many workers were outsourced to companies paying a small fraction of what they were paid as Wits employees, while university management continues to use these companies as cover to prevent the workers from organising and threaten their jobs.
That the latest move affects only international students is another sign of the xenophobia – coming not even two years after the pogroms in which tens of thousands of immigrants were driven from their homes – which is endemic to the system of nation-states that seeks to divide the poor and working class, including students. When we are divided according to our nationalities, it is easier for the South African government and the Wits Corporation to exploit us.
We support the Swazi students and the Swaziland Solidarity Network and call on fellow students and staff to join in solidarity in their fight against this new injustice. Only the exploiter wins if we are divided; we can win only if we unite.
We strive for an end to capitalism, neoliberalism and the commodification of education.
We envision a world in which states, borders and exploitation cease to exist.
Free education for all!
Free health care for all!
Forward to a world without borders!
Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front
Wits Anarchist Society
- For more information on Wits’ neo-liberal restructuring, and resistance to it, see: Fighting Privatisation in South Africa: Lessons from the struggle against neo-liberalism at Wits University found here