Students taking part in the Wits protests set their sights on a statue near the university campus in Johannesburg on Friday. A group of youngsters gathered to tear down The Miners’ Monument at the top of de Korte street, with demonstrators telling the press that this act of destruction was a symbolic gesture to ‘decolonise education’.

What statue was targeted by the Wits protests?

There was also an attempt to set the statue on fire, as ropes were placed around the necks of the men immortalised by the monument. The statue was initially erected to tribute to the gold mining community, who worked in horrendous conditions during the time of colonial rule. The students, however, were unable to knock down the structure.

Watch: Students at Wits protests fail to remove a statue

The arguments for and against…

The removal of statues has become a very thorny subject across the globe. Protests in the US and UK have recently seen problematic figures toppled from their plinths. The argument against these acts of civil disobedience is that they are essentially ‘trying to whitewash history’, whereas those involved believe some monuments ‘are glorifying injustice’.

The unsuccessful targeting of The Miners’ Monument is likely to raise questions, however. The statue is a tribute to the miners and their perseverance. However – whatever side of the fence you’re on – one thing that is not up for debate, is that these students involved in the Wits protests are hellbent on securing meaningful change.

A leading student union has sent a list of demands to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, giving him a deadline of 17:00 to agree with the proposals. A failure to do so, they warn, will result in a ‘national university shutdown’ on Monday.

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Presh JM Reporter

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