Frustrations as DUT strike enters second week

Students at the Durban University of Technology have raised concerns as the staff continue to protest over a wage dispute.

Registration season has begun and scores of excited first year students have already flocked different institutions of higher learning across the country, hoping to register smoothly and begin their studies. But for Nobuhle Mntambo, 18, from Jozini things currently look bleak as she has been in and out of the Durban University of Technology without receiving any assistance.

“For the first week I’ve been travelling between home and Durban because I had no place to stay. Jozini is far and when I realised that I had run out of money, I had to ask my cousin who is staying at a DUT residence to help me,” she said.

Mntambo said this has been a daunting process for her as she was supposed to have registered the previous week.

“I’m nervous, I came all the way from home to seek financial assistance. I keep on having faith that things will finally fall into place but I’m scared of what will happen if they don’t, the ongoing strike is also delaying the process,” Mntambo said.

She is among first year students who have been admitted to further their studies within the institution but doesn’t have money for registration.

Another student, Thandolwenkosi Ntombela came all the way from Nkandla to seek financial help but it’s been two days of hard luck.

“I have a bursary but I can’t access it due to some technical problems. I was supposed to be assisted by the university’s NSFAS office but I couldn’t receive help due to the ongoing strike,” he said.

He also said that he has the fear of the unknown.

“I’m not sure when the protest is going to end and registration in my faculty began last week already, I’m scared I might not be able to register if the office does not open anytime soon. It’s very frustrating because I don’t see myself spending another year at home,” Ntombela said.

The combined protest which saw hundreds of workers embarking on a strike started on Monday 15 January, with workers demanding a 10% salary increase. The protest was organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and National Tertiary Education Union of South Africa (Tenusa).

Spokesperson for the combined unions Milton Estrice said that the protest was no longer just about wage increase.

“We’re in week two on the strike and people remain confident and resolute, they will not surrender until their demands are settled. The demands go beyond salary negotiations,” he said.

He also said that there was also an issue of staff benefits and the longer the management takes to resolve their issues things will get worse.

Sbonga Shezi, the SRC’s deputy secretary general said that they have been faced with frustrations from students who are coming into the university to look for spaces.

“We’ve been able to assist some students who were stranded but there were also frustrations with the walks-ins. It got to a point where the housing director had to let everyone into residences for temporary accommodation,” he said.

He added that although they have been trying by all means to help students with registration, the process is slow with workers on a strike.