It is not that Vice Chancellor Jonathan Jansen is apolitical neither is he happy with the recent ugly development in campuses across the country, but the sole aim why he won’t join in the anti-Zuma protest is because he doesn’t want to take sides.
The University of Free State VC also stated that another reason he won’t join the students on Wednesday during the anti-Zuma protest is that he doesn’t want to be labelled a supporter of any political party. He said, “Just going [to an]… anti-Zuma march would immediately label me as part of a political party, and while I am still a vice chancellor, I cannot be seen to be taking sides.”
He added that he is not surprised that politicians convert campuses to political platforms during campaign. Jansen however noted that all issues raised by students are legitimate and can’t be wished away. Hence, students must be allowed to express themselves.
“I think any university leader that thinks they can manage parties [by] using the university as political platforms won’t succeed. Political parties would try to muscle their way in and seek opportunities through students’ formations to advance their own agendas and we can’t stop that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cape Town‚ Durban and Johannesburg towns will see the protesters march around in the said #ZumaMustFall campaign.
Violence in universities across the country made headlines earlier this year. Properties worth millions of Rand were also destroyed during the chaos. And following these ugly and violent trends, Jonathan Jansen admitted on Monday that leadership in a new environment in the country is very challenging.
He said, “For me it has really been a difficult period – although the majority of students are not violent. I think in general being a vice chancellor of a university has its perks. As with any big organisation, there are costs and there are benefits, and the costs are something that you expect.
Anybody who thinks they can just come in and have a smooth ride especially in a former white university… then that won’t happen. What is currently happening for vice chancellors in the country, who are in the heart of it all, is that we are not sure anymore if the benefits of being [leaders] outweigh the cost anymore”.
Jansen stated that the universities are not used to what they have been experiencing. “There is new anger. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, and each one of us [vice chancellors] has received personal insults each day, but we have also received support from communities,” he said.
He also promised to work extra hard to bring unity in white and black communities and ensure transformation. He however said he experiences joy and satisfaction sitting through graduation ceremonies and celebrating with graduands.