It’s been a month since academic activities resumed at the North West University’s Mahikeng Campus. The campus had been shut down since February, following student protests that resulted in some buildings being set alight. Now students at the university’s Potchefstroom campus are mobilising a new protest. HASAN VARACHIA, student at the campus spoke to Mbali Zwane.
About 36 workers out of the 200-plus workers outsourced by a private company at the university were fired for an alleged illegal protest that happened in February. They were fired on demand of the university.
The workers approached a student body of black students against the oppression of black people that happens within the university. Black people at this university are treated with the greatest disrespect. The workers asked to form allies with us in fighting for better working conditions and, on several occasions, we have tried to speak to management on their behalf.
On the day that the alleged protest happened, the workers had requested a meeting with the university’s management to listen to their demands and address them. Management refused to meet with the workers and this resulted in workers marching around campus. They attempted to reach out to management again but it wasn’t successful. They decided to throw litter around the campus. After that, everyone dispersed.
On the Monday after the incident/alleged protest, some workers were locked out of the campus and received dismissals. The university handed over the footage to the company, who picked out workers they said were guilty. Out of approximately 200 workers that were protesting, they only fired 36 of their choosing. Students who formed allies with the workers were given suspension letters but this was later uplifted, thanks to the intervention of lawyers. However, the students are still facing charges and two months later we still don’t know what the students are being charged with. We have since taken the matter of the fired workers to the CCMA and the case will be heard on May 14.
Workers are earning R2, 500 at the moment with no benefits and they get R150 in annual bonuses. They fall under temporary casual workers. The company is showing different figures to the university as to how much the workers really earn. Some of them have apparently paid money to get employed by this company, they paid individuals within the company.
These are our demands from the protestors:
1. Transformation of the University
2. Language policy reform
4. Insourcing of workers
5. Reinstatement of fired workers
6. Drop charges against students
The protest was postponed today because there was confusion within the students about the date and as a result, we couldn’t mobilise enough numbers.