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Protests at UKZN for 0% fee increment for 2017 have reached Durban

Students at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN) have shutdown the Westville campus following the call from South African Union of Students (SAUS) and Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) structure for a national shutdown.

Nesh Khumalo, president of South African Student Congress (Sasco) UKZN, told the Daily Vox that the protests and shutdowns were in line with SAUS and PYA call for no university fee increment until the fees commission comes forth with its findings on a pathway to free education.

“We received a call from SAUS national to say that they’re not agreeing with government and stakeholders. We couldn’t just wait to sit back and wait for something [Blade Nzimande’s pending decision regarding fee increments for 2017] we aren’t even sure about,” said Khumalo.

A number of students were arrested on Wednesday for disrupting lectures.

University spokesperson, Lesiba Seshoka, said they would not tolerate violent protest at the campuses. But Khumalo ensured that the protesters were not interested in destroying property or doing any more financial harm to the university.

“You know the university has lost so much money through damages, so we are avoiding that. We’ve actually plead with our students to not vandalise or burn anything. But trust me, when students get arrested, students get agitated and after that they will do something. But we are trying by all means to calm them down and keep everything peaceful,” said Khumalo.

Khumalo assured that that protests would continue on today. Students have confirmed that certain lectures have been cancelled and that there is currently protest activity within the university’s quad area.

Philani Ntshobeni, Westville SRC secretary told The Daily Vox that the plan of action for the day was to shutdown the Westvile campus and added that beyond the fee increment, the students were also protesting against the centralisation of NSFAS.

“The plan of action for the day is to ensure that the process and sessions of learning does not continue up until the management comes to us and we discuss issues, internal ones, but also send a message to the department and the government that we are fully against the fee increment and centralisation of National Student Financial Aid Services (NSFAS),” said Ntshobeni.

Later on Thursday, Bongekile Ngobese, Westville SRC community development officer told The Daily Vox that academic activities had been suspended until Friday so that management and the SRC can discuss issues around residences and security on the campus as well.

On Thursday, Senzo Ngidi, SRC president of UKZN Central Campus, addressed students at the mass meeting that took place on the Westville campus, saying that there are two fundamental contradictions to the revolution – counterrevolutionaries who have a stake in protecting the status quo and undisciplined comrades who deface noble causes by carrying weapons and getting arrested. This follows the arrest of a student for gun possession, and another for allegedly stabbing another student at the Pietermaritzburg campus.

Ngidi emphasised that central issues for the students are the poor housing arrangements, free education with relation to the fee increment and NSFAS.

“We told the VC that he must close the institution, indefinitely, up until we resolve on the issues you [the students] are going to tell us,” said Ngidi.

The SRCs of UKZN are meeting with provincial government at midday on Friday, 19 August to discuss the issues raised by students, but particularly the terms of the continued shutdown.

Featured image and additional reporting by Lizeka Maduna

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