A week of university protests

Student movements around the country have taken to the streets to protest and express their grievances at the lack of accommodation and funding for needy students. Here is a roundup of most most of the activities for this week.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – FEBRUARY 17: Students clash with security guards during a protest at the University of Cape Town on February 17, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa. Students continued with their protest against the shortage of student accommodation at the university. (Photo by Gallo Images / Die Burger / Lulama Zenzile)

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – FEBRUARY 17: Students clash with security guards during a protest at the University of Cape Town on February 17, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa. Students continued with their protest against the shortage of student accommodation at the university.                                                                   (Photo by Gallo Images / Die Burger / Lulama Zenzile)

This week student movements around the country all embarked on numerous protests highlighting issues of financial exclusion, lack of accommodation for black students, outsourcing and clearance of historical debt.

On Wednesday night a Wits University bus was set alight outside Knockando residence. No one has claimed responsibility for the fire and the university was investigating.

The protests kicked off at the University of Cape Town (UCT) when the Rhodes Must Fall movement erected a shack on Upper campus to protest against the lack of accommodation. The university sent private security and police to demolish the shack and RMF students responded by burning “colonial” paintings, a car, Jammie Shuttle bus and an administrative building on Wednesday.
A member of RMF who was present when the torching of the paintings, vehicles and administrative building happened explained the motivation for the burning: “The burning of the pictures is twofold, the one is that black people are very angry to be found in an anti-black institution and expected to just exist, or rather not really exist. And then to be confronted with these colonial artworks in the same way as being confronted with the Rhodes statue.”

“This speaks to the idea that black people are not taken seriously. So you can remove a statue but you think there is no relevance in thinking about the artwork or other aspects of the space which black people have to participate in,” said the RMF member.

The RMF member argued that burning down buildings was a resolution of the question of Frantz Fanon’s “revolutionary violence.”

A group of eight students were arrested and later released on bail after they were dispersed from Upper and Lower campuses using stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Also in Cape Town, #UWCFeesWillFall students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) occupied their student centre and handed over a memorandum to UWC director of legal services Shervaan Rajie on Wednesday. The movement is calling for academic programmes to be suspended so that matters relating to financial exclusion, the clearing of historical debt and accommodation could dealt with first.

According to the #UWCFeesWillFall students nothing has changed at the university, “The university … made a promise that they will talk about the issue of free registration and historical debt being cleared, but instead we are seeing students … being asked to pay R4 800,” #UWCFeesMustFall member Monde Nonabe told GroundUp.

A member of the #UWCFeesWillFall movement who wishes to remain anonymous out of fear of victimisation by the university said that he felt historically black institutions such as UWC were not given the same level of attention as other historically white institutions.

At the University of KwaZulu Natal workers, with students in solidarity, fighting to be insourced by the university closed down the institution resulting in the university getting a court interdict against the workers.

On Thursday at the ‘University Currently Known as Rhodes’, students from the Black Student’s Movement joined the nationwide protest against financial exclusion under the hashtag #nisixoshelani.

TUT and UKZN back to business

Classes have resumed at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal campuses after protests at both institutions last week.

TUT evicted students from a number of its campuses during the first week of lectures following violent protests over the financial aid crisis.

All academic activities were suspended until last Friday when an agreement was reached with the university’s student representative council (SRC). A formal agreement is expected to be reached by the end of today according to university spokesperson, Willa de Ruyter.

For the time being, she said, central management and the SRC have agreed that “students cannot lose more time with their studies”.

The university has extended the registration deadline until March 3 to allow students more time, according to de Ruyter.

The first week of lectures at UKZN had also been suspended, but according to the university’s communications department, “everything was back to normal and it is all very peaceful”. It remains unclear as to why students were protesting at the institution although the issue of financial exclusion was raised by the SRC.

Varsity round-up

Rhodes student murdered

THE body of a Rhodes student was found in Port Elizabeth on April 13. She had been stabbed in her neck and chest.

News24 reported that Lelona Thembakazi Fufu, 23, was murdered while hitchhiking to her graduation ceremony last week.

Police spokesperson André Beetge said that, since Fufu’s clothes were still on but her valuables were gone, police believed she had been robbed and then murdered.

Fufu would have been awarded her BSc Honours degree on Thursday evening.


Five universities under fire

INVESTIGATIONS  at five universities have revealed problems in the governance of certain institutions, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has announced.

According to Daily News, Nzimande announced on April 16 that Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), the University of Zululand, Walter Sisulu University, Vaal University of Technology (VUT) and the Central University of Technology were under scrutiny for maladministration.

Assessors at TUT reported “continued governance problems” and a lack of progress by the university council in complying with recommendations made by a commission of inquiry and an audit by KPMG.

At the University of Zululand, the assessor reported an “unhealthy”, bordering on “dysfunctional”, relationship between the vice-chancellor and the council.

A lack of student governance was also cited as an issue at the university, where there has been no SRC since 2009.

Walter Sisulu University is reportedly in “dire financial straits”, and academic results are substandard.

Nzimande said he had not yet been given the reports on Vaal University of Technology and Central University of Technology.




Payment saga at UKZN continues

THE University of KwaZulu-Natal has denied accusations that it paid random amounts of money into contract workers’ accounts, following a three-month delay in payments.

Some lecturers and tutors have not been paid since January, East Coast Radio reported, and have stopped lectures as a result.

After students threatened to protest in support of the staff, some payments were made on April 13 and 14. However, staff claim they were paid incorrect amounts. One person claimed to have been paid just R16.

The university has cited administrative glitches for the problems, and said that backlogs would be sorted out soon.