About 50 people picketed Wits University’s AMIC deck on Thursday against the institution’s decision to rename the deck the Wits Sibanye-Stillwater Endless Bridge. The deck is well known for spanning the M1 motorway bridge in Johannesburg to connect the East and West campuses. It was built in 1989 and named after the then funder Anglo American Industrial Corporation.

“Marica Memorial Bridge”

Instead, the group wants the deck to be named the Marikana Memorial Bridge and for the mining giant’s 52 million rand sponsorship to be redirected to widows and orphans, many of whom lost their breadwinners in the 2012 Marikana massacre.

The picket was organized by the Wits Socialist Youth Movement with the support of the Wits EFF student team, the South African Federation of Trade Unions and some staff affiliated with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).

Wits signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Sibanye-Stillwater in 2021. According to a statement released by Sibanye-Stillwater in August last year, the memorandum of understanding involved “sponsoring Sibanye-Stillwater of approximately R52 million to support and enhance the university’s Faculty of Engineering and Human Environment over ten years and to repair the bridge.”

White crosses have been placed on the deck of the Wits AMIC in memory of the miners who died in the Marikana massacre. Photo – GroundUp.

But students affiliated with the Socialist Youth Movement rejected the alliance between Wits and Sibanye-Stillwater. “We believe that this institution should serve the interests of the students, staff and communities of the University of the Witwatersrand,” said Zaki Mamdouh of the Socialist Youth Movement.

Mamdouh said that by signing the memorandum of understanding, the university was joining a company responsible for “exploitation, the destruction of communities and the killing of mine workers.”

Mamdoo said their demands include that Wits end its “friendship with SIbanye-Stillwater and all mining capital”; commit to “pursuing a radical climate justice and decolonial agenda” through consultation with staff and students; and that the university withdraw its 52 million rand sponsorship and find alternative funding.

The university’s dean of student affairs, Jerome Septamp, accepted the group’s memo and promised to respond within two weeks as requested.

In response to GroundUp, James Welstead, Sibanye-Stillwater’s executive vice president of investor relations, said: “We acquired Lonmin in June 2019, many years after the Marikana tragedy. Since taking ownership, we have put various processes in place that will lead to positive change for all stakeholders in the area.”

This article originally appeared on GroundUp and has been republished with permission.
Read the original article here.

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