UP fallist student to attend graduation ceremony despite suspension

Mosibudi Rasethaba will be allowed to attend his graduation ceremony on conditions negotiated with the University of Pretoria (UP) after the university attempted to forbid him from attending. 

Rasethaba, a BA student studying psychology and sociology, will graduate on Wednesday. He was active in last year’s Fees Must Fall protests and his arrest has been cited by the university as a reason to prohibit him from attending the ceremony.

“Given the history involved, and in the interest of the safety of students, staff and property, the university is reluctant to allow Mr Rasethaba on campus as a non-registered individual,” Jooste said.

Rasethaba is a firm supporter of the decolonisation of academia.
The 24-year-old, believing that graduation was a legacy of colonial ideas of achievement, intially questioned whether he would attend at all.

But he now wants to be at the ceremony for his parents and because the university didn’t want him to go.

“Firstly, it is to honour my parents; it was with sweat and tears that they worked hard to see me complete my studies and graduate. It was my mom who knew my pain and struggle and kept me in her prayers when I felt abandoned by everyone around me,” Rasethaba wrote in a message to the Mail & Guardian.

He said that being at the ceremony would also dispel illusions that “fallists” do not excel academically and that it would make the university reconsider keeping student protesters away.

“Attending my graduation is as a direct response to the university’s attempt to try to discredit, suppress and erase fallist voices within the institution. My graduation says to the university ‘even though you tried to destroy us, we have made it and we will continue to make it’. It says to the university that students will know that they don’t have to succumb to the system in order to flourish,” he said.

“My graduation is for every comrade and black student that has felt the ruthless hand of the university.”

Rasethaba has been suspended from all UP campuses since September last year. The university says one of his bail conditions is that he is “not entitled to access the University of Pretoria without permission”. Rasethaba faces a number of charges including inciting violence and damage to property.

In a letter sent to Rasethaba, UP registrar Professor Niek Grové said the September suspension remains in place and will not be lifted for graduation.

“The aforementioned suspension remains in force and you will therefore not be allowed to attend the graduation ceremony on May 3 2017,” Grové wrote. “An alternative arrangement will be made to provide you with your degree certificate.”

Rasethaba then consulted a lawyer and UP agreed that he would be able to attend graduation on a number of conditions. The conditions are that Rasethaba:

  • Must give an undertaking, in writing, that he or his supporters will not disrupt, in any way whatsoever, the graduation ceremony. No form of any protest or disruptions on any of the university’s premises will be allowed (the court order is still in force);
  • Must undertake to comply fully with all the rules of the university pertaining to the graduation ceremony and not to act in any way which is in contravention thereof (no ill-discipline will be allowed);
  • May not use the graduation ceremony as a platform to promote any political, personal or other statements or agendas.
  • Must post on his Twitter and Facebook accounts a message requesting that all his supporters refrain from disrupting any graduation ceremony and partaking in any protest action on the university’s premises during graduation ceremonies. He must also request them to comply with all the university’s rules pertaining to the graduation ceremony.
  • May only be accompanied by four guests that are his family members.

Marwala Rasethaba, Mosibudi’s father, joined a committee of parents and interested parties to negotiate with the university on his son’s behalf. Eventually, most of the original conditions were erased. Rasethaba must, however, agree to abide by the university rules that are applicable to all graduates. Other conditions are that:

Rasethaba must post a message on Facebook and Twitter stating that UP has allowed him to attend the ceremony.

  • He must “desist” from “sending or being complicit in the dissemination of threatening messages” to UP with regards to graduation ceremonies

Marwala Rasethaba said that Mosibudi had never threatened the university. The younger Rasethaba says his father has been a “constant mentor” to him. Marwala has supported the student activists’ demands for decolonised education and said his son’s presence at the event has become more significant since the university issued the ban. He believes UP deliberately targeted Mosibudi.

“We are not desperate to go to the graduation ceremony. We fought as a matter of principle,” he said. “We’re doing it for our community. The university doesn’t have the right to target individuals. We are doing it for the sake of our own black nation.”

On Tuesday, the university sent him a letter confirming he could attend graduation if he agreed to the three conditions set after negotiations took place. Professor Norman Ducan, the vice-principal, signed the letter off by saying: “We wish you all the best in the future.”

The student has encouraged fallists to continue their activism despite challenges from universities.

“I pledge to you comrades to continue the fight against institutional power, to fight for the return of our expelled/suspended and excluded cadres, to fight against the perpetuation and continuation of the pervasive rape culture, to never rest until we realise a decolonised society,” Rasethaba said.


Read Rasethaba’s full response below:

As a decolonial activist, I should actually give no value to colonially imposed conferrings of excellence until the system is dismantled and we live in a decolonised society.

As many already know, I have struggled with making a decision on whether to attend or not to attend my graduation ceremony. I eventually came to the decision to attend based on the following reasons.

Firstly it is to honour my parents, it was with sweat and tears that they have worked hard to see me complete my studies and graduate . It was my mom who knew my pain and struggle and kept me in her prayers when I felt abandoned by everyone around me. Student activism and student governance coupled with a rigorous academic and extracurricular program can be a lonely and difficult road to walk. It was through her everyday calls, SMSes and prayers that I was able to stay sane. My dad has been my constant mentor, my friend and adviser through my entire journey. The support of my parents and family went beyond attaining this piece of paper, they are active participants in the decolonial project and have showed continuous support for the fallist movements in various ways. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Secondly, I understand that there is a misconception that student activists do not progress academically. Just like many that have gone before me and will come after me, my graduation serves to dispel this myth. Fallist are by far some of the most intelligent students you will find out there.

Thirdly, attending my graduation is as a direct response to the university’s attempt to try discredit, suppress and erase fallist voices within the institution. My graduation says to the university, even though you tried to destroy us, we have made it and we will continue to make it. It says to the university, that students will know that they don’t have to succumb to the system in order to flourish. In the famous words of Kabelo, “we can strike and pass at the same time”. Our voices will never be silenced, our voices will not only be heard in the streets and lecture halls but in the graduation halls as well.

Lastly my graduation is for every comrade and black student that has felt the ruthless hand of the university. I want to say at my graduation that to every black student that has been excluded through suspensions/expulsion, finances, academics, mental health, rape etc we will continue to fight alongside you and for you. You have not been forgotten, your pain is our pain, your struggle is our struggle, and your sacrifices have not been in vain. I pledge to you comrades to continue the fight against institutional power, to fight for the return of our expelled/suspended and excluded cadres, to fight against the perpetuation and continuation of the pervasive rape culture, to never rest until we realise a decolonised society.

As young black graduates we need to assume our role in the broader decolonial project by working together with every sector of society towards realising a free and decolonised society. The acquisition of knowledge doesn’t not begin and end in the ivory towers called university. Ours is to continue learning and unlearning, in our quest to decolonise we must not fall in the trap of reproducing and perpetuating the very colonial paradigms we detest.

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