A Wits honours student explained the difficulties and treatment he faced trying to find accommodation at Wits University.
My name is Themba Tshabalala. I am a post-graduate student at the Faculty of Humanities. I started my degree three or four weeks ago, since then I have been having issues with accommodation.
I had my own plan to fund my own studies. I was going to get accommodation, all of that was going to be sorted out. I had a sup exam at Rhodes University, it came out and about two weeks later the [Wits] university had still not processed my application. That caused me to lose out on my funding opportunity and residence.
Literally every person I’ve been to, whether it’s the accommodation office, Wits SRC, the dean of students’ office or fees office, everybody says they will get back to you but there’s no response.
I went to the SRC who advised me to go back to the dean of students’ office because they had arranged some sort of temporary accommodation for students. When I got there I was told that what the SRC told me isn’t true. They don’t assist students who don’t have any funding at all, that if you haven’t paid a cent to the university she cannot assist you with accommodation.
Then she said she didn’t understand why “you people” leave your homes, come all the way here, put yourselves in these situations and expect us to help you. I do not understand how people don’t plan for accommodation and don’t have money and want us to help them.
At that point I was shocked. I tried to keep an open mind to listen to what she was saying. Because it was clear that she was either saying you poor people or you black people. It could only be those two things. Then she went further and said I look like a well put together person so she doesn’t understand how I could put myself in that situation.
I said to her if there was a university in Pretoria that had what I wanted to study then I would go but there isn’t one. So, what do you expect me to do? She suggested I take out a loan. Don’t you think if that if that was an option I would have taken it?
They are the ones who put me in this situation, why am I the only one who has to take accountability for the situation when I had put my own means in place and the university compromised my funding. They compromised my space in res. Now they back tracking saying no this is your problem.
I did lay a complaint with the vice-chancellor’s office, they brought up the concerns with her. She emailed me back and apologised and said if that’s how I took the conversation it wasn’t meant to be offensive.
At the moment I’m still living at home in Pretoria. I travel every day to try and be on time. Because I leave every morning and go back every evening, firstly it’s costly, secondly it’s physically exhausting. I’m losing out on valuable study time that everybody else has. I’m missing deadlines. Every day I’m submitting the day after. I come in on Saturdays to make up the extra time I’m losing in the week, [using up] that extra money I don’t have.
*Names have been changed
** As told to Tanisha Heiberg