Wits SRC took on the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and Wits management to deal with the ongoing accommodation crisis.
The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) marched to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature in central Johannesburg during the State of the Provincial Address (SOPA) debate, to hand over a memorandum of demands to the provincial government on Thursday, February 27.
“If you are going to debate the state of the province then you cannot leave out the fact that there are still students that are sleeping out on the streets of Gauteng,” said Wits SRC president, Thuto Gabaphethe
The memorandum, which was read out by Gabaphethe, demanded that Witswaters, an unoccupied building in Parktown owned by the provincial Health Department be made available to students for accommodation.
“We have identified that there are unoccupied buildings owned by government, when there are students languishing in Braamfontein,” said Gabaphethe outside of the Provincial Legislature to the group of about thirty students.
Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi received the memorandum on behalf of the Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura. Lesufi reassured the Wits SRC that they would receive a response within 12 hours of receiving the memorandum.
Gabaphethe told Wits Vuvuzela that “the provincial legislature is the parliament of the province, we have chosen to go there because that is where policies and decisions about government are made, and that is where you’ll find all of the executive members who lead the province”.
Lesufi concluded by saying, “You’ve come to the right place and anytime you feel you need somebody to help you, don’t forget that we are on your side, we’ll take care of you, we’ll be your voice and we will raise issues with the relevant institutions.”
Gabaphethe said that “private accommodation service providers in Braamfontein must also be engaged in terms of dropping their exorbitant rates”
Lesufi sympathised with the struggle of students without accommodation. “I know the difficulties of being a student, not knowing where your meal will come from. I know the pain of not planning your future because of circumstances beyond your control,” he said.
According to the SRC, they have assisted over 900 students in securing accommodation this year and are hoping to accommodate the remaining 200 student who are still without accommodation.
Gabaphethe said “we are hopeful that they (Gauteng Legislature) will respond to our demands by tomorrow as they had promised.”
Wits Head of communications, Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that “we would like to clarify that there is sufficient supply of accommodation in the Braamfontein area, the real issue is that the cost of private accommodation is sometimes unaffordable to students. It is particularly out of reach for those students who have lost their bursaries and financial aid due to poor academic performance.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Wits University says that there is ample accommodation available in close proximity to the university but some of it is unaffordable to students. Photo: File.