Student protests continue to light up campuses across SA

There’s been a lot of activity in South African universities and colleges this week. MBALI PHALA sums up some of the activism going down in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

University of Fort Hare
Students at the University of Fort Hare gathered at the Student Centre on Tuesday to hand over a memorandum to the university’s management. The memorandum included a demand that the university release funds for meal allowances among other issues. According to Daily Dispatch, the process concerning debt clearance and financial aid for students at the university was shut down on Monday. Democratic Alliance student leader Yusuf Cassim told the newspaper that Lai-wing Alberto‚ head of Financial Aid at Fort Hare said the agreements could not be signed due to university funds having been exhausted. “This will leave poor students without the funding that they were promised and again highlights the chronic lack of funding in higher education‚ and in particular‚ the poor financial management of this historic university‚” Cassim said.

On Wednesday night, a marquee was set alight at the Alice campus, as well as tyres near the entrances. The fires  were started after talks with university management were unsuccessful. Police were deployed to the campus late last night. According to the Eastern Cape police spokespeson, Lieutenant Khaya Tonjeni, 15 students have been arrested, four of whom are women. They are between the ages of 19 and 35. They are being charged with housebreaking, theft and malicious damage to property. They will appear in court soon, but the SAPS may oppose their bail. Members of the university’s SRC are reportedly on are on their way to visit the arrested students.

Students had been threatening to disrupt the university’s centenary celebrations, which will acknowledge the role played by the institution in education of Africans. President Jacob Zuma is set to deliver an address during the celebrations, which the university inteds to go ahead with. Students have also threatened to boycott the celebrations if the public violence charges against 20 students, arrested during last year’s Fees Must Fall protests, are not withdrawn.

University of Johannesburg
A court interdict was obtained by the university on May 17 after its Sanlam Auditorium at Kingsway campus was torched around 2am on Monday morning. The interdict was obtained to stop any students or workers from protesting at or near the university’s four campuses. The court order prohibits protesters from blocking or stopping students‚ staff and visitors from entering and exiting the university‚ disturbing classes and exams‚ and carrying out actions or threats of violence against and damage to the institution’s property and service providers, among others.

Some students have expressed sadness over the burning of the auditorium as it is also used for the institution’s graduation ceremonies.

Rhodes University
The university currently known as Rhodes has been granted an extension on the interim interdict taken out against protesting students during the #RUReferenceList protests.

The interdict prohibits protestors on campus from unlawful activities such as intimidation, assault and vandalism. The Oppidan Press reported that university staff opposing the interdict have until June 6 to come up with an opposing affidavit. The university will have to respond to within 10 days of receiving the affidavit. “Our job now is to look into the (costly) options of opposing, and try to meet with management to see if we can’t get them to lift (or “discharge”) the interdict,” university staff Corinne Knowles told Oppidan Press. This week also marks a month since the #RUReference list was released.

On May 17, students occupied Jan Smuts residence, where a student named on the #RUReferenceList lived. The student, who was part of the SRC and a sub-warden, was later relieved of his duties as sub-warden and evacuated the residency.

The occupation came after students who occupied the SRC offices last week were issued with a letter requesting that they end that occupation.

Technical Vocational Education and Training college
Students at the Technical Vocational Education Training college in Alexandra shut down the campus on Wednesday, demanding proper residences, fully equipped workshops, a functional library, and resources to complete their courses.

The protest didn’t go on for long, with some students reportedly going back home several hours into the protest.

University of Mpumalanga
Outsourced workers, supported by students from University of Mpumalanga’s Siyabuswa Campus will down tools on May 19 to hand over a memorandum to the university’s management. Student activist Vusi Mahlangu said the decision was prompted by the success of other workers from various universities, who had achieved insourcing by universities after staging #OutsourcingMustFall protests. The memorandum will include these demands by the workers: to be insourced by the university, resulting in permanent employment, a minimum wage of R10, 000 per month, and to receive the same benefits as those enjoyed by other permanent staff and academics of the university.

Featured image via Twitter