South Africa: UCT Students Set Up Camp in Solidarity With Palestinians

A white sheet with hundreds of names of those killed in Palestine since October was draped down the Sarah Baartman Hall steps

Students and staff at the University of Cape Town (UCT) arrived on Thursday morning to find about ten tents with Palestinian flags and banners near the main plaza.

The encampment is in solidarity with similar movements at universities like Wits and others in the United States, where students have occupied spaces. They are calling for financial and academic boycotts of Israel because of the Gaza war and occupation of Palestinian land.

The students set up camp on Wednesday and spent the night on campus. Some of their banners read "resistance is beautiful" and "how many students need to be killed before UCT does something".

They also laid out a long white banner down the steps of the Sarah Baartman Hall with the names of a couple of hundred children and adults who have died thus far in the war since October, as well as messages of support.

The encampment was organised by the student movement, UCT4Palestine. According to organisers, they started the encampment to commemorate the "ongoing nakba" (the catastrophe), the mass displacement of Palestinians during the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. The space is also being used for artistic and educational purposes in solidarity with students at Wits University in Johannesburg.

Among their complaints, protesters claimed that UCT has financial ties with Israel and demanded that the institution break all ties with Israel. UCT4Palestine, in a statement, said, "We call on UCT and all institutions of higher learning to live up to their stated values by supporting the Palestinian call for a total boycott of Israeli academic institutions and corporations complicit in human rights abuses and genocide."

Jamie Rosengarten from South African Jews for a Free Palestine said that they are "creating a proudly decolonial zone where we will mourn what's happening right now in Gaza and Rafah".

He said that there was a call for people to come together in a safe space and show solidarity.

The UCT4Palestine movement will also be collecting non-perishable food, warm clothing, and blankets during the encampment. These items will be distributed to a few poor local communities where they are desperately needed.

Students have vowed to continue their action until they get a response from UCT.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said, "The University has noted an 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. The executive has not been formally engaged by nor received any correspondence from the group."

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