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Universities are ‘heritage’ sites

- Buhle Zuma

Universities are custodians of invaluable national resources and should be protected.

This sentiment was expressed by the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, and his counterpart, Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko, during their visit to Wits University this morning.

The ministers visited one of Wits’ and South Africa’s treasure, the William Cullen Library. The Library is home to the Historical Papers section, which contains one of the largest and most comprehensive independent archives in southern Africa. It houses over 3300 collections of historical, political and cultural importance, encompassing the mid- 17th Century to the present.

The visit comes after a few incidents of buildings, art and busses being burnt during the on-going student protests around the country.

Some of the valuable material on display today included the: Freedom Charter (1955); the Treason Trial (1956); Notebook by De La Caille (1746) calculating the latitude in the Cape; Robert Sobukwe, photograph of the PAC marching to Orlando Police station, 21 March 1960; the Slave Register with original photographs (1872); and photographs from the Barnett collection of photographs, 1896-early 1900s, covering the history of gold mining in Johannesburg.

The ministers also had the opportunity to listen to the original recording of Sol Plaatje, singing the national anthem “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" recorded in 1923 during his visit to London.

A media briefing was held on the steps of the Willam Cullen Library immediately after the tour where they spoke on the current destruction of national assets on campuses and the government’s response. Read the joint statement by Nzimande and Nhleko on campus disturbances.