The university has been shut down for over a week due to student’s demands not being met

Students and staff will resume the academic year at the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), KwaZulu-Natal, as it is set to reopen on Monday, March 4, after being shut down due to student protests.

MUT said in a statement on their website that they would be reopening on Wednesday, February 27, after being shut down since Tuesday, February 19. However the university later agreed to the  Student Representative Council’s (SRC) decision to open on Monday, March 4.

“While classes should have resumed [Wednesday, February 27], both management and the SRC agreed that it would be fair to respect the voice of Senate which had recommended a University closure on 19 February. Senate has just sat and pronounced that lectures should start on Monday, 4 March . This should allow those students with queries and those whose registration had not yet been finalised to settle these issues,” the university said.

SRC president Codesa Gwala told Wits Vuvuzela that the university needed to be considerate of students that had gone home during the protest.

“There can’t classes if there are no students. Students in Mpumalanga, they can’t come back overnight. We told [management] that we are happy to open on Monday. No matter how much we don’t agree with management, I can’t hold students to a corner and tell them to protest. We value education and we will continue fighting for education,” the SRC president said.

The university shut down its campus after protests turned violent. According to  Gwala some of the demands made by the students included the rejection of a 5.3% fee increment and a 33.3% deposit increase for the new residences. Additionally, the SRC also rejected the lowering of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) allowances and requested printers on campus, and longer library, computer labs and clinic hours.

Management and the SRC negotiated the demands resulting in a “pilot agreement” to have longer libraries opening until 11pm as opposed to 9pm. Computer labs will be opened for 24 hours as opposed to being opened from 8am-4pm. 10 printers are expected across the campus of 13 000 and students will no longer have to print off campus.

The protests turned violent with students blocking entrances and burning tires. Five students were arrested for public violence, a News24 report confirmed.

Protests resulted in students being evacuated from the university with immediate effect, with the university stating that the violence from the protests resulted in harmful conditions to continue the negotiations over student’s demands.

According to Gwala, the student body went to court to contest the notice and was granted an interim order, allowing the students who wanted to stay on campus to do so.

“When the University pronounced that students should vacate the University, the decision was made in the interest of the safety of staff, students and property. Moreover, the University also has an obligation to protect the people of Umlazi Township. The student protests had also spilled outside campus,” MUT said.

Third-year Diploma in Agriculture student Siphesihle Xulu told Wits Vuvuzela that he got shot at with rubber bullets by the police while standing in line to register where students were protesting.

“This year it’s much better as we are starting early. Last year it was in April. The [negotiation] process was much longer [then],” Xulu said. “Everything they’ve asked for is genuine. As a higher institution, we should have those facilities; we’re not a high school. Res should have Wi-Fi. I don’t think the university should have a problem providing these things because those are the basics,” the 23-year-old said.

The university is open for new and returning students to register. Students have until Monday, March 4, to do so.

FEATURED IMAGE: MUT students will begin classes as of Monday, March 4, after almost two weeks of a campus shutdown. Photo: Facebook