The current issues that University of Botswana students face are just more than fighting for direct academic justice and better welfare, but also internal re-invigoration and participation of some certain students. It is a disturbing factor to note that there are still those who view student activism and local direct action as ineffective or a taboo, declining it in favor of bureaucratic decision making by the University management. I contend that at this critical time this model looks more and more out of step with the realities of the situation that we face.
In Chile and Germany, for example, long-term mass mobilisations by student movements through civil disobedience have forced governments to reintroduce free education. While we watch cowardly here in the University of Botswana as our leaders are being subjected to torture, harsh disciplinary actions and legal threats after fighting for our rights, students in Cairo have agreed to participate in a general strike from the 11th of February which could be escalated to a civil disobedience until their demands are met.
Having observed closely on what has befallen UB students and their leaders, I simply tender an advice that it is high time all students around the country launch a massive civil disobedience if the University decide to expel or suspend the SRC members. Students from other schools must not distance themselves from these high temperatures in UB as they may also be affected somehow. The civil disobedience must be overwhelmingly peaceful and nonviolent and it should not be a strike because a strike is a means of protest where people stay home and do not attend classes or work. But civil disobedience is an unconstitutional and extreme form of protest, in which people refrain from dealing with the government and or any oppressive institutions like the UB management up until their answers are addressed.
During this period, students should participate in variety of non-violent tactics such as boycotts, noncooperation, limited property destruction, mass marches, demonstrations and disruption of public ceremonies. This is all what we can do; it is left to us students to fight against these oppressive systems – and to link our actions to the struggles of ordinary working people everywhere. Be warned that our struggle is not easy, and we must not think of nonviolence as a “safe” way to fight oppression. The strength of nonviolence comes from our willingness to take personal risk without threatening other people.
Lastly, in the spirit of advancing student leadership I also urge the University of Botswana to consider drafting and adopting a policy which will protect student leaders from future legal threats and harsh disciplinary actions.
WHEATON MA, USA