UCT students disrupt classes and join CPUT in a march to Parliament

Students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Mowbray campus and the University of Cape Town (UCT) marched to Parliament on Wednesday. They demanded that President Jacob Zuma release the Fees Commission report. Parliamentary members – including Zuma – were in Parliament for the release of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.

Students were met with a police presence and two UCT students were arrested outside of Parliament.

Earlier on Wednesday, UCT insisted it was still open and operational despite student attempts to shut down. Undeterred by the rain and the cold, the UCT student movement marched through the campus singing and disrupting learning activities.

Controversially, UCT students disrupted a test that was being written in the Sports Centre. A protesting student released a fire extinguisher into the venue despite student leaders’ calls to refrain from using the extinguishers.

Last year, a worker at the University of the Witwatersrand died after an asthma attack due to inhalation after protesting students released a fire extinguisher inside a building.

In a statement, the university said it was “deeply concerned about the impact of these disruptions and attempted shutdowns on students’ ability to perform academically and for staff to ensure the continuation of the academic programme”. It says it remains committed to continued engagement to resolve issues.

Students held a meeting with management on Tuesday evening. Earlier on Tuesday, students held a mass meeting and marched to the Bremner building to hand over a memorandum of demands to Vice Chancellor Max Price. The university said further demands were named in the Tuesday evening meeting, and management could not immediately respond to them. This included a call for the entire institution to be shut down on Wednesday, and for staff and students to join a march to Parliament. Management said this demand was not feasible and could not be met.

UCT management also deployed the services of a private security company to assist in safeguarding high-risk venues on campus. In a statement, the university was explicit that the unnamed security company was not Vetus Schola, which had previously been deployed on campus but was withdrawn during last year’s Fees Must Fall protests.

Additional reporting and featured image by Mohammed Jameel Abdulla