CPUT students’ fate hangs in the balance as the institution is yet to decide when classes will resume, after a violent protest forced the university to close down

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) is negotiating with the Student Representative Council (SRC) at the institution, in attempts to find viable solutions on the issues that led to violent protests in early May.

Riotous demonstrations enveloped the institution; and it is alleged that students set fire to a cleaning supply room near the Education Building at the Bellville campus.

CPUT cleaning supply room alleged to have been burnt by student protesters. Photo: Supplied

The protests took place as students were unhappy with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for changing the terms of agreement with them. The students say NSFAS is now refusing to give them accommodation, meal, and transport allowances to scholars registered for less than 60 credits for the year in their respective degrees. 

To further limit the damage to infrastructure, on Thursday May 11, 2023, the university released a statement where students were ordered to evacuate residences — after the university shut down all its campuses due to the escalation of the student protests.

CPUT offered transport in the form of shuttles to students who are from provinces outside the Western Cape, who did not have means of transportation to get home.

However, SRC Education and Transformation Officer (ETO) at CPUT, Xolani Booi said that the money that the university “wasted” in transporting students back to their homes could have been used to help in securing more accommodation for students and providing transport for students.

Booi said that NSFAS dropped a bomb on them when they announced the R45 000 cap on accommodation at the institution. He added that the decision by NSFAS to defund students registered for less than 60 credits was not communicated in advance and came as a shock to them. 

Booi said that they resorted to protesting because no one was paying attention to their grievances.

On Thursday, May 18, 2023, the SRC met with the university management and NSFAS CEO, Andile Nongogo to talk about all their issues. However, there is still an impasse.

 CPUT student Blessing Sithole, said that they were shocked by the decision taken by the university to send them home. “We didn’t expect it, the decision was taken so quickly,” Sithole said.

Sithole also said that they are worried as students about the upcoming mid-year exams, because they are not certain if they will have enough time to prepare for the exams.

But Booi hinted that the university might move to online or hybrid learning in the next few weeks.

“All we can say as the SRC is that ours was a very peaceful protest, and we distance ourselves from any violence act, we have no business with violence. Our only weapon is a pen and a book,” said Booi when he was objecting the fact that students were violent during the protest action.

Afrika Phama, former Chairperson of PASMA (Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania) CPUT said that: “We [the students] hope that all our demands will be met, and everything will go back to normal, so that we do not get to tamper with the initial academic calendar.”

The negotiations between the CPUT management and the SRC have been happening since Monday, May 15, 2023. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Building at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Photo: Supplied.