Mass meeting mayhem 

Student organizations clash at meeting meant to discuss student accommodation and registration.  

Showing up to a crowded Wits Ampitheatre, students adorned in yellow and red regalia, members representing the EFF Student Command (EFFSC) and Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) joined forces to discuss registration and accommodation issues with new and returning students.  

The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC), made up of majority EFFSC members, and the PYA initially had separate meetings planned but decided to merge their efforts on the evening of February 22, 2024.  

Bukisa Boniswa, SRC president said protest action is on the cards but would need to be “sustainable and directed to the right people”, specifically Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande.  

“Wits University has been having protests since I got here, [every year] we find ourselves in the same predicament. At some point, a level of consciousness needs to come to all of us because we can’t keep on doing the very same thing and expecting different results, that’s the definition of insanity,” said Boniswa. 

Viewing this as a party political jab, Chairperson of the ANCYL, Peterson Radasi, grabbed at the megaphone and began chanting “the SRC must fall!” A scuffle broke out when EFFSC coordinator, Sibusiso Mafolo, grabbed the megaphone from Radasi. Wits campus control officers had to intervene to restore order.  

“The president of the SRC started telling us about Jacob Zuma and Blade Nzimande which we highly disagree with. If we’re saying the doors of higher education must be opened, we all know who is closing them, and that’s the institution,” said ANCYL secretary, Kabelo Phungwayo. 

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) introduced an accommodation cap in 2023, after discovering price fixing and corruption by university staff in some institutions. The R45 000 cap has left students with fewer affordable options.  

Since the beginning of the 2024 registration period, around 300 students from the Cape Town Peninsula University of Technology struggled to secure accommodation and slept in the university’s sports hall until they were evicted on February 14. Similarly, News24 reported that a group of 30 students from Stellenbosch University have been rendered homeless and sleeping on the university’s squash court and outside the main administration building.

“Wits accommodation prices start from R65 000, the NSFAS cap means that students must pay R20 000 before they register, where would they get that money?” said EFFSC coordinator, Sibusiso Mafolo.  

He added that around 500 individuals lack accommodation while there are approximately 1000 vacant on-campus rooms. “Wits should turn these into hardship accommodations and collaborate with private student accommodations to secure at least 20 beds for NSFAS-defunded students,” said Mafolo. 

Boniswa reassured the students that they were putting pressure on Wits management and that a way forward would be communicated on Monday, February 26, 2024.  

The inadequate land reform programme

The issue of land and the constitution is a hot topic. Wits University Economic Freedom Fighters’ Student Command (EFFSC) hosted a public lecture on the subject by Advocate and Wits law school visiting senior research fellow Thembeka Ngcukaitobi, who said the current land reform programme is inadequate.

“Land is an economic asset that entitles you to a livelihood,” said the advocate. The land reform programme has many failures and those who have managed to benefit in regaining land have, in many cases, seen little or no improvements in their livelihoods.

Students attendees of the public lecture gain new knowledge on the land reform issue.                                                                                                                                                  Photo: Nomvelo Chalumbira

“The Land Claims Commission [The commission that facilitates the current land claims process, is designed to compensate those who were dispossessed of a land right after 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws], which not many know about, has a budget of about R1 billion and is one of the most dysfunctional institutions as it is not performing according to its constitutional role,” he said. The land reform programme has largely focused on the restitution phases (land acquisition) of the process, to the exclusion of land reform implementation process. “Restitution is not going to sort the problem of landlessness. The duty is on the government to ensure redistribution through expropriation. A redistribution legislation draft was written in 2007 and passed by cabinet but not in parliament. Jacob Zuma still hasn’t signed it. A new expropriation act (last expropriation act was passed in 1975) could’ve been passed as early as 2008,” said Ngcukaitobi.

Nguckaitobi said that the government owns less than 20% of land available for redistribution. “More than 80% of the land is in private hands, which the government should take. They have an obligation to take the land and redistribute it,” he said.

“The government is paying too much market related compensation and settling cases they don’t need to. When the property owner can see they can get away with getting more, they will push the envelope,” said Ngcukaitobi.

Ngcukaitobi believes that occupation is not the most progressive method to expropriate the land without any compensation. “We need to force the government to do its job under the constitution. So everyone who is concerned with South Africa should be concerned with land. We shouldn’t only be confined to judicial systems. It’s time to reform the law of contract, property law and private law,” he said.

EFFSC Member singing struggle songs before the public lecture begins. Photo: Nomvelo Chalumbira

During the Q&A session, BA Education student Mangaliso Sambo raised the issue of student accommodation. “Accommodation is privatised by individuals who make money off poor [black] students but the public interest is there. [Black students] cannot afford to pass and be good students if they are still forced to travel from morning to sunset without a chance of rest and have no shelter in close proximity. Residences is not just a land based issue but also an academic issue,” said Sambo.

Third year BA General Wits EFFSC member and organiser Nolukhanyiso Gongxeka commented on the importance of understanding the issue of land reform, “The issue of land is not just about farming. It means taking ownership of the capital and the economic capacity that is owned mostly by white people.”



Wits Vuvuzela, July 2013: Just EFF’ing Around 

Wits Vuvuzela, July 2013: EFF National Assembly

Wits Vuvuzela, July 2017: Wits opens a public bid for Alex land to raise funds toward student accommodation.