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Rewriting history

- Buhle Zuma

A highlight of the evening launch was the historical redress and handover of a plaque with the names of the BSS student leaders.

Wits University alumni descended upon the University last Wednesday to lend their support to a new initiative launched by Wits graduates.

The South African Solidarity Fund for Education (SASSFE), whose steering committee consists of former Wits student leaders dating back to the 1950s, was launched at Wits on 6 April 2016.

A highlight of the evening launch was the historical redress and handover of a plaque with the names of the Black Student Society (BSS) student leaders.

The presidents of the BSS, who represented the interests of black students in the 70s and 80s, were not afforded the same privilege and decorum of having their names monumentalised in the board listing SRC presidents. 

Handing over the plague to the current SRC President, Dr Kenneth Creamer, president of the SRC (1991/2) and a SASSFE founding member, said: “We can’t talk about student politics without talking about the Black Student Society. This is a piece of history and it should hang next to the SRC board”.

Read about the history of the BSS and past presidents.

Wits alumni opened their hearts and wallets at the launch where they pledged solidarity with the movement and their own struggles against financial exclusion.

Colin Coleman, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs International and member of the SRC (1984/5) said the history of financial exclusion in South Africa can be traced back to the days of F.W. De Klerk, who launched the first attack on access and affordability by cutting state support to universities, leaving students with no option but to revolt in a protest led by Wits students. The students of 1987 faced a hostile government which also responded by firing rubber bullets at thousands of students as they marched down Braamfontein.

Coleman, on behalf of his company, donated R200 000 in the memory of Bheki Mlageni and this contribution was matched by Dr Sizwe Nxasana, Chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

Linda Vilakazi, the first black female president of the SRC (1992/3), following the merger of the BSS and the SRC, invited alumni to give in monetary terms but also of their time and skill to SASSFE. 

Online donations are invited. Enquires should be directed to Kopano Mashishi on 011 548 3309.

Nationwide Initiative

SASSFE, which plans to be a nationwide initiative, has set up its first Chapter at Wits. Wits University has provided the Wits Chapter of SASSFE with its administrative backbone. All funds collected by the Wits Chapter will be used to assist Wits students. The SASSFE trustees and management are in talks with formers student leaders from universities across South Africa to set up SASSFE branches at their respective institutions.