I must reiterate that personally I am honored to have led students under the administration of Adam Habib. It is through his resolve and resoluteness that I gained some of the most important traits as a leader, writes Mcebo Dlamini
I am quite ambivalent when it comes to the resignation of Adam Habib as the vice-chancellor of Wits University. But, I can’t ignore his impact on the institution, both good and bad.
Whether he is deserving of being universally celebrated is up for debate as far as I’m concerned.
But during his tenure, a number of important changes happened at Wits that has the potential to transform the idea of the South African university as we know it.
So Habib straddles the thin line between (in my opinion) being one of the worst vice chancellors Wits University has had and being the vice-chancellor under whom many conditions of possibility were created.
Under his administration we stretched our limits regarding what a black university could look like.
If there are any people who ought to celebrate Adam Habib it is the university management and the old white people who sit at Senate.
He fought for the university to continue being a profit-driven institution.
He did what he was paid to do, which is to ensure that it is business as usual at the university at whatever cost.
But we continued to fight as students and that is how we were able to get some of the gains that we have, however small they were.
The fact that workers were in-sourced and have all the benefits of internal staff is important to us.
The fact that there are buildings whose names reflect that we are a university in Africa is something worthy of considering.
Disciplines such as the humanities have already embarked on curriculum reformulations that seek to include more black thought as part of what the students have to learn.
All these victories are important because they lay a foundation from which we can continue to build.
These things were achieved during Habib’s tenure: we sat him down (literally) and he had to find a way.
We fought, the battle lines were drawn. He was management and we were the students and between the two an antagonism exists that is not easily reconcilable.
We need to remember that learning does not only happen in the classroom, but also outside of its walls.
The university as a place of knowledge production demonstrates academic freedom by allowing students to apply in practice the ideas that they gain in class.
Having said the above I must reiterate that personally I am honored to have led students under the administration of Adam Habib.
It is through his resolve and resoluteness that I gained some of the most important traits as a leader.
He taught me how to deal with an enemy that kisses and caresses you with the intention of biting.
He reminded me that although we joked and had a relationship outside of the picket line one must never lose focus.
Through him I was able to understand what Biko spoke of when he spoke of non-whites.
There will be people who speak the language of socialism and even claim to relate to your struggle yet be the first to see your demise.
There is so much unfinished business at Wits University, but I have confidence that the students will finish what they started, because really it is not you but them who have tirelessly worked to make the university a better place.
Bon voyage, old friend.
– Dlamini is a former chairperson of the Wits SRC. He writes in his personal capacity.