No prosecution for arrested Wits protesters

 

Student who were arrested earlier today as part of the Fees Must Fall protest that took place at Wits University will not be prosecuted for their charges and will be released.

The group of 31, who mostly belong to Men’s Res, are being held at the Hillbrow Police Station as they await their release, which is expected to be at 4pm today.

The protesters were arrested for “contravening a court interdict,” according to the Hillbrow Police Station’s spokesperson Mduduzi Zondo. The court order prevents anyone from obstructing the entering or exiting of any person, “or any of its buildings, facilities, residences, halls, classrooms and the like”.

Vuyani Pambo, a member of the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), said that he could not supply the names of the arrested students. However, he could confirm that Koketso Poho, chairperson of the Wits EFF, was part of the group who were arrested and was injured in the process.

“Once all the 31 students were processed, then the dockets were taken to the senior prosecutor for advice to see if they would prosecute on the case,” said Florencia Belvedere, an attorney from Lawyers for Human Rights whom is working on the case.

Belvedere said that the senior prosecutor then agreed not to prosecute and agreed to allow the students to be released.

“The issue remains however whether there is some grounds to carry the court order because today the students are released but tomorrow, they demonstrate again and we could be back here again,” said Belvedere.

 

 

#Access Campaign: the latest update

The Wits SRC’s #Access campaign has so far fallen short of its intended R10 million target, raising R4.8 million over the last eight months.

The campaign, was launched to assist students who fall into the “missing middle”, a term used to describe students who do not qualify for NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme), funding but still cannot afford university fees.

SRC secretary general Fasiha Hassan believes the campaign has faltered due to political uncertainty in universities which has discouraged corporate donors.
“It is very heart-breaking because here we are trying to seek sustainable solutions to the issues in higher education only to have the door shut in our faces by the private sector,”.

Until now the money donated has gone towards assisting students with their accommodation and tuition. A portion of the fund has also been allocated to clearing the existing debt of some students. Hassan said that students belonging to the missing middle were prioritised first and then other students were included.

“Those who were rejected from NSFAS because they fell above the R120 000 cap were then included, we also had various other elements such as household income,” said Hassan.

She added that the SRC, through its Humanitarian Fund board, also looked at students’ academic performance to fund students who potentially could secure bursaries, as well as third-year and final-year students, “because they are going to finish their degree, in theory, and be able to pay back and donate”. Fields that were generally under-funded were also prioritised.

The SRC will be opening applications for 2016 in the next three months.

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Wits Vuvuzela: #AccessCampaign Accommodation crisis temporarily resolved, May 17, 2016

Wits Vuvuzela: #ACCESS Campaign: Where are we now?, March 4, 2016

Treasury says no money to fund zero percent fee increase

By Ayanda Mgede and Laura Pisanello

The National Treasury has said that they have not budgeted for a zero percent fee increase for 2017, causing speculation that another series of #FeesMustFall protests could be possible.

The statement was made on Friday at the Fees Commission and coincided with a report by the Council of Higher Education (CHE) stating that another 0% increase in 2017 would not be possible as university fee increases should at least be on par with inflation. They recommended an increase of 6.3% for both tuition and registration fees. The CHE also cautioned that without an increase in fees, universities would be in a worse financial position.

The CHE also included in the report its recommendation to increase the state subsidy to universities by R5.7 billion in 2017/18 therefore allowing universities to recover some of their shortfall caused by the 0% increase in 2016. The CHE did, however, caution that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would still have a shortfall of R300 million.

The CHE proposed a blanket increase for all universities that would essentially ensure that students see no fee increase between 2016 and 2017, possibly with the exemption of some residence fees.

But the National Treasury said on Friday that when the announcement for a 0% increase was made the budget had already been planned for the next few years, making it very difficult for the Treasury to reallocate funds to higher education. Michael Sachs, who presented on behalf of the National Treasury, said that they had budgeted on fee increases for the following years.

At a town hall meeting last week, Wits Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said that that Wits would need an 8% increase for 2017, if the university did not receive an increased subsidy from the government.

Mzwanele Ntshwanti, the projects, media and campaigns officer for the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) and member of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) told Wits Vuvuzela that they opposed any fee increase.

“We still don’t want any increment, SAUS (South African Union of Students) doesn’t want any increment, SRC doesn’t want any increment, no one wants a fee increment and we are still trying to negotiate and see what can come out,” Ntshwanti said.

He also told Wits Vuvuzela that a statement regarding a possible national shutdown would be released shortly.

Student Union wants direct link to the president

The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has said they will be looking to discuss issues of free education directly with the Presidency than through the Commission of Inquiry into Free Higher Education.

This comes after the first day of the Commission’s public hearings in Pretoria.

SAUS deputy secretary general Fasiha Hassan said they wanted the direct line because they were disappointed with the commission’s lack of political power to discuss issues of free higher education.

“SAUS is now looking towards creating a direct line with the president of the republic,  particularly because this is a presidential commission and when we raise issues, stuff around decomodification, stuff around how to realise free education, we are often told that we now have to take it back to the president,” said Hassan.

She added that “If we are not going to be talking to a commission without political will then we have to take it straight to the top.”

Student activist Tasneem Essop also questioned the Commission’s purpose on Twitter.

“I don’t understand, surely #FeesCommission should be finding a feasible model for free education & not checking if free education is feasible,” she said.

The commission of inquiry was established in January by President Jacob Zuma following #FeesMustFall protests where students demanded free higher education and training. The commission was expected to submit their findings in eight months, however two weeks ago the Presidency said they would extend the due date to next year June 30.

The commission is expected to submit a preliminary report on or before November 15. The public hearings are set to continue today in Pretoria and will end in September in Kimberly.

Related Stories

Wits Vuvuzela: Students reaffirm call for free education, August 10, 2016

Wits Vuvuzela: Wits University invites calls to influence fees , April 30,2016