“As International students we note with a deep concern the xenophobic tone of Monday’s mass gathering called for by the SRC at Solomon Mahlangu House. We call on the university to conduct an investigation into the activities of that meeting, particularly on the virulent and hate-filled utterances that were directed at foreign students studying at the institution by some of the attendees, such views must be condemned to hold no place at our university.

We welcome the decision by government and the University to halt the fees increases that would have resulted in the systemic financial exclusion of many. We would like to commend the efforts of the SRC, other student organisations and the workers and academic staff of our university. We were proud to witness and be part of an extraordinary and noble effort to bring in tandem the policies of the University with the prevailing social and economic milieu in which the majority of the country’s people find themselves in.

We, like local students, found it to be unreasonable and indifferent of the university to impose a fees increase that was above the normal inflation rate. We also found to be senseless, the decision to increase fees for international students higher than for local students yet international students already paid more fees than local students. We could not comprehend why on so many ocassions the university has justified international students having to pay higher fees than local students on the basis that international students are not subsidized by the state, yet the reasons for next year’s increase was premised on a lack of state funding and reduction of state subsidies something that international students are not party to nor beneficiaries of. We call for the University’s management to provide clarity this regard.

We also call on the university to further elaborate whether its decision to revisit the upfront payment of fees will also apply to international students who are presently required to pay 75% of their fees before they are permitted to register at the beginning of each academic year. We unequivocally remain opposed to this stringent and excessive requirement that poses as barrier to entry for returning international students. We find the argument that international students leave the country without paying their fees in full (hence necessitating this requirement) to be manifestly unfounded and having no substantive facts or empirical backing. We must remind the university that an overwhelming majority of International students come from African countries, and the burden of affording tertiary education is no different to the one encountered by local students. It follows that international students must not be viewed merely as a lucrative source of income by the university. We propose, as an alternative to the present upfront fee benchmark of 75% ,that returning international students be subject to the same upfront payment regime as local students.

As international students our solidarity with the plight of local students has never been stronger and remains unwavering and unconditional. We believe free education should be the sole and ultimate goal of the state so that the doors of learning can be open and affordable to all those who are willing and are committed to pursuing tertiary education regardless of their economic status. South Africa is better served when its tertiary institutions are able to harness and nurture the potential of everyone, including the poorest of society. We , however, acknowledge the time and resources needed for this goal to be achieved.

We would also like to affirm our commitment and support to the abolition of outsourcing of workers by the university. The continued and unwarranted exploitation of workers can no longer be tolerated. Outsourcing and the consequences that follow from it stands against the very ethos of the South African Constitution, those of Human dignity, equality and freedom. The university must accelerate its efforts to bring the outsourcing of workers to an immediate end.

The Fees Must Fall movement has demonstrated the collective power of students in our university. It has affirmed the long standing ideal that if we as students are willing to put our differences aside and work towards the achievement of a common endeavour, we are bound to succeed. In the past few days we have succeeded, while we are yet to see the tangible results of our struggle, we have offered a glimpse of what is likely to happen when the university and the state fails to consider the legitimate concerns of students. Any failure on part of the university is likely to trigger our collective ire in the future.

With this prospect in mind we call on the University to resume the academic programme without further delay. We believe the time has come for dialogue on what the university must do going forward in order to address the demands that were raised in the past two weeks. Students and including international students must facilitate that dialogue in order to ensure that the university meets its obligations. The process of engaging the demands that were raised must be inclusive, transparent and open to all.

A further delay in the resumption of the academic programme will affect international students most adversely. It will mean additional expenses for food and groceries, transport and accommodation; for those whose leases expire in at the end of November. This will also further strain international students financially as they are expected to meet the 75% upfront requirement at the beginning of next year. It will also inconvenience international students who are obligated to renew or extend their study visas at the end of the year. It is self-defeating to have fought against one form of exclusion and only to be confronted by another. Students stand the risk of academic exclusion if the current impasse continues.

In revising the exam timetable, we urge the university to take cognisance of the disadvantage; a prolonged and further delay is likely to have on international students.”
Issued by:
The Zimbabwean Students Association.
The Wits Congolese Society.
The Zambian Students Association.
The West African Students Union.
The East African Students Association.
The International Office of the Postgraduate Association.