On Monday, the first day of lectures at UCT, students built a shack on upper campus. This was to make a statement to the university about insufficient housing for students. The shack – which they mockingly named Shackville – was complete with a porta-potti on the side, the way it would be in some informal settlements. A lot of familiar Rhodes Must Fall faces were on site – the likes of Xhumani Maxwele, Pam Dhlamini, Alex Hotz and others. We spoke to some of the students who put up the shack and found out why they did.
“We thought ‘fuck the institution’, we are going to literally drop poverty at their feet”
“A lot of students have been financially and academically excluded so we thought ‘fuck the institution, we are going to literally drop poverty at their feet’. They think it’s a joke that people are actually homeless. So, what better way to do that than come to the most unequal society of all, the haven of whiteness and be like here’s a shack, here’s a porta-potti, let’s see how that actually goes.” – Nombuso Mathibela, a masters student, who does not have a problem with res, but was part of Shackville in solidarity with students who didn’t get a place in res.
“I was touched by some of the stories of students who were coming from outside of Cape Town”
“I was touched by some of the stories of the first year students from outside of Cape Town. They don’t know anyone here, and they don’t have res. Then UCT wants to offer them transit res – where it’s one hall, where they put like 30 to 40 beds. They just put students there, sleeping with all these strangers. It’s such a bad transition from high school to university. That’s when we decided to occupy Avenue House [on February 14], which is student housing. We took over and tried to help students get decent accommodation. And then UCT ended up putting them in Riverview Lodge [a guest house in Observatory]. But Riverview Lodge doesn’t have any resources for students to perform academically. They don’t have internet, they don’t have Jammie Shuttles to travel to and from Campus. And these students are new, they don’t know Cape Town.” – Pam Dlamini, who is originally from Jo’burg and has no family or relatives in Cape Town.
“As a black person, I’m used to surviving”
“Since I got here, I never got residence. But as a black person, I’m used to surviving. But that doesn’t mean someone else is able to survive just like me. What we are saying here is we are refusing the university to exclude black students. So, this shack is symbolism… actually it’s a fancy shack, it even has wi-fi.” – Lelethu Dantyi, who says every time he applies, the university put him on the waiting list, which has happened three years in a row. He is from Kimberly, but stays in Khayelitsha with relatives. He commutes every day to campus using either a taxi or a train, and the journey can take up to an hour.
“I don’t have any personal struggles with res but I know cadres who do”
“I don’t have any personal struggles with res but I know cadres who do. Last week, we were trying to get first years into res, so UCT management moved them to Riverview Lodge and now they are trying to turn Riverview into a res. But students live six people in a room, there’s no wi-fi. We are trying to show that there are students – white or black – who live close to UCT and therefore don’t need res, but live at res. Whereas we have students from [far away] who are now living at Riverside, and they don’t have family around here. And also the fact that there are so many international students who have res, so who does UCT prioritise?” – Yonela Makoba, who has been part of RMF since inception. She says they are making a few strides, as UCT management ended up putting students in Riverview Lodge who they were initially going to put in transit. She was also involved in spray-painting the bust of Fuller.
Watch a video of students protesting and spray-painting busts on the Smuts Hall and Fuller Hall residences.
Read Rhodes Must Fall’s statement on Shackville here
Images: Sabelo Mkhabela, Onele Liwani
Video, shot and edited: Onele Liwani
*An earlier version of this article had mistaken Riverview Lodge for Riverside Lodge. The error has since been fixed.