The suspension of two University of Botswana (UB)’s Student Representative Council (SRC) members after they had been reinstated by the High Court has the student community up in arms in protest.
Enraged by a 20-minute address recently made by the vice chancellor of UB, Bojosi Otlhogile, to the student body, a Concerned Students group has started to circulate memos calling for class boycotts once again, this time in a bid for the reinstatement of their Student Representative Council (SRC) members.
The SRC members had either been suspended indefinitely or dismissed after being accused of leading the student community to an ‘unlawful strike’.
The dismissed two had then taken the matter to court where judge Unity Dow overruled the vice chancellor’s decision and ordered that the students be reinstated.
Following the reinstatement of the two by the High Court, the Tuesday after UB premises re-opened, Otlhogile sent security guards to fetch the SRC members and escort them off the school premises after they were informed of their fresh suspension.
Rossah Ditirwa, the vice president of the interim SRC, said that the students are demanding the reinstatement of their leadership with immediate effect.
“Before he decided to suspend the reinstated SRC, students were attending classes; we were still protesting against the ministry but we were attending classes nonetheless. How can we move on forward with negotiations without our leadership? Now we are back to boycotting classes because we want those leaders back,” said Ditirwa.
It is said that a day before he decided to suspend them, days after the court lifted their suspensions, the two had sent Otlhogile a memorandum requesting him to address the student community and heed the students’ pleas.
The vice-chancellor did not meet the request due to what he termed a ‘busy schedule’.
On the same day that he was expected to address the students, the SRC was suspended and, once again, the students were left without leadership.
In his address, Otlhogile rummaged through a prepared speech for ten minutes after which he invited questions and comments from students.
“I will now allow 15 minutes of questions and comments after which I have to leave because of a few engagements,” said Otlhogile.
According to an unnamed 2nd year student, questions were posed by a few students.
“They asked Otlhogile why he always hid in his office when he heard the students had a problem. They asked him why he only came out when bad turned to worse and also asked why his only solutions are always to close the university without finding reasonable solutions first,” said the concerned student.
“We are all very disappointed and angry. Otlhogile didn’t answer any of our questions. He might as well have just stayed locked up in his office. His response to all our pleas was that every one knew where his office was, that if we had problems and queries we should come to his office or go to the offices at the Ministry of Education. He knows very well that the ministry had sent a memorandum to the school informing us to halt our visits to those buildings,” continued the student.
Meanwhile in defense of his decision to suspend and dismiss those in leadership positions, Otlhogile said, “The age where people were punished for a collective wrong ended in the 1930s; nowadays we focus only on the individual and their contribution to the wrong doing.”
Meanwhile, information passed to the Sunday Standard alleges that the reason the vice president and the minister of Bar and Canteen were expelled was because of an incident where a CID agent ended up getting beaten up by a mob of students.
It is alleged that the two had singled the agent out in a student body meeting and requested that he should leave the student hall after which he was attacked by the mob.