Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
16 minute read
3 Oct 2016
9:15 pm

Live report: Students hold night vigil at UJ

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

A small group of students decided to spend the night sleeping near a gate at the Auckland Park campus.

A small group of students gathered on Monday night at the University of Johannesburg’s Auckland Park campus to hold a night vigil. They decided to hold a sleep-in at Gate 1 with the police keeping a close eye on them.

When photojournalist Tracy-Lee Stark arrived they were peaceful. She filmed them singing in the video below.

Earlier:

ANC calls on students to resume academic programme

Students take protest to Parktown. Picture: Michel Bega

Students take protest to Parktown. Picture: Michel Bega

The ANC on Monday said it was disturbed by the interruption of the academic programme during the #FeesMustFall protests, calling on protesters to respect the rights of those who wished to resume their studies.

There were reported disturbances to the resumption of classes at some universities on Monday, including the University of Cape Town.

In a statement issued by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, the party said its national executive committee (NEC) had over the weekend deliberated extensively on the ongoing protests in higher education.

“The NEC is disturbed by the interruption of the academic programme that has resulted from the wanton destruction of property, intimidation and violence,” Mantashe said.

“The recent announcement by Blade Nzimande, the minister of higher education, was welcomed as a significant step toward realising fee-free higher education for poor students.”

Universities across the country have been plunged into a state of paralysis since the announcement by Nzimande that tertiary institutions could hike their fees for 2017, but by not more than 8%.

Government also committed to paying the fee increases for next year on behalf of all poor, working class and “missing middle” families – those with a household income of up to R600,000 per annum.

The move would require the government to fork out an additional R2.5 billion to cover the resultant shortfall of income at universities.

Mantashe said this was an unprecedented progressive intervention by the ANC government as only those who can afford to pay would pay the increased fees.

“The NEC agreed that, given that over 75% of students in universities and colleges will benefit, the government has moved a long way toward achieving fee-free higher education for many that are in need of assistance,” Mantashe said.

“We continue to support the principle that those who can afford to pay for higher education, must continue to do so in line with the principles of solidarity and cross-subsidisation.”

Mantashe also called on students to return to lectures and continue with the academic programme, saying that the violence and destruction of university infrastructure accompanying some of the current protests could not be justified.

The University of Witwatersrand management resolved that lectures resume on Tuesday after students overwhelmingly voted in support in an online poll last week.

“Destruction of property means public funds will have to be diverted from funding poor students to refurbishing infrastructure,” Mantashe said.

“We cannot afford to lose more lives or continue to disrupt the academic programme. We call on all to respect the rights of those students who wish to resume their studies and to identify and isolate those who perpetrate acts of violence and destroy public property.”

Earlier 

Wits will not reopen until demands are met – students

Protesting students at Witwatersrand University (Wits) on Monday declared that the University institution would not be open until their demands for free education were met.

At the weekend Wits management said the university would reopen on Tuesday after two weeks of protests.

“The academic programme will resume on Tuesday. The phased opening follows several engagements with a range of stakeholders, including students, where we ceded to requests for a phased opening this week,” the university said on Sunday.

However, on Monday, hundreds of protesting students at the Solomon Mahlangu House said the university would remain closed.

A student, who did not give his name, asked staff and media to leave the venue because the university “was not open today and wouldn’t be open on Tuesday and would remain closed until they have free education”.

Wits management said all staff were expected to return to work on Monday. There was no indication the plan to reopen the institution on Tuesday had been changed.

Management said additional private security would be brought on campus while police would remain “on the perimeter of the campus” and only be brought on to campus if necessary.

Security would be gradually withdrawn from campus provided there was no violence, intimidation, and destruction of property.

“We urge staff and students to work with us as we reopen this week. Together, we can still save the 2016 academic year while continuing the struggle for free education for the poor and the so called ‘missing middle’.”

The university conducted an electronic poll on Thursday to determine whether lectures should resume. The poll showed that 77% of respondents wanted lectures to resume, with 23% voting against it.

The university said there were 21,730 responses to the poll, with 16,739 voting for lectures to resume and 4,991 voting no.

On Monday police and private security were posted at various points of the university.

Earlier 
Students protest at higher education fees forum

Protesters are demanding better service delivery. Photo: Ramaupi Makgoo

Protesters are demanding better service delivery. Photo: Ramaupi Makgoo

University students brought the Higher Education Stakeholders Summit to a temporary halt on Monday, ordering the return of President Jacob Zuma, whom they wanted to address.

Zuma delivered a keynote address at the Higher Education Stakeholder Summit in Kempton Park on Monday before he left to attend to other matters of the African National Congress (ANC) at Luthuli House.

The Higher Education Stakeholder Summit is a one-day gathering to find an immediate solution to the higher education crisis while the Fees Commission continues its investigation into the feasibility of free higher education in the country.

Zuma had pleaded with the department of higher education and university students to find long-lasting solutions to the fee increment issues that have brought academic programmes across the country to a grinding halt.

Led by South African Union of Students (SAUS) secretary-general Sthembiso Ndlovu, the students interrupted the fees forum’s proceedings after briefly caucusing outside the auditorium where they debated whether to boycott the meeting.

“We want the president to come back. And if the president doesn’t come back, our SRCs are saying they don’t see the necessity of bishops being here who do not have the money to fund free education,” Ndlovu said.

“And we have a problem because we are sitting in the same house with reactionary vice-chancellors who continue to close down universities and today they come here with their dirty suits to speak English. We also want Treasury to be able to make a commitment today to tell us how much is there for free education.”

Ndlovu also said the Presidential Fees Commission must be allowed to make a submission at the forum, saying that the students were worried about the purpose of the forum since the commission was not put on the programme.

SAUS president Avela Mjajubana accused Zuma and government of “arrogance”, saying they were prioritising party issues when the “country and universities are burning”.

Universities across the country have been plunged into a state of paralysis since the announcement by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande that tertiary institutions could hike their fees for 2017, but not by more than eight percent.

Outgoing Wits University SRC president Nompendulo Mkhatshwa said students were the ones who bore the brunt of “exorbitant university education fees”.

“Students are tired of protesting. We’ve been protesting from UKZN for six weeks. Students are tired of being shot at by police,” Mkhatshwa said.

“You should be asking yourselves where are your children when universities are burning. This meeting today must find how free education will be achieved.”

Nzimande interjected the students’ submissions, accusing them of “grandstanding because there is media”.

“You’ve been shifting the goalposts all the time because you don’t want us to have a proper conversation and proper discussion. We have agreed with all of you as SRCs on the proposals that I announced about fee increment,” Nzimande said.

“We agreed that we have to respect each other and listen to each other. You can’t say you don’t want to be in a meeting where vice-chancellors are present. I want to make a plea that we continue with the meeting.”

Earlier

Wits #FeesMustFall leaders embark on mass march

Jacob Zuma. Picture: Neil McCartney

Jacob Zuma. Picture: Neil McCartney

Workers at the university of Witwatersrand were asked by leaders of the #FeesMustFall movement to leave the Solomon Mahlangu hall shortly before embarking on a mass march around the campus.

Plans were in place to disrupt some of the administrative activity at all faculties which resumed on Monday morning following a controversial online poll in which 77% of students and staff voted to reopen the campuses.

The students vowed to keep the university shut down indefinitely as the Wits SRC planned collaborations with that of other universities such as the University of Pretoria and Tshwane university in a bid to form a national stand for free education.

Police and security detail remained calm as hundreds of students made their way through the campus grounds. The national protest against  university fees had entered its third week.

Meanwhile, a fees imbizo was under way convened by the department of higher education and training to engage student leadership from various universities to discuss solutions for the  fees disputes that have led to the shutdowns at universities across the country.

Earlier

Zuma pleads for dialogue at higher education fees forum

President Jacob Zuma on Monday pleaded with the department of higher education and university students to find long-lasting solutions to the fee increment issues that have brought the academic programme across the country to a grinding halt.

Speaking at the Higher Education Stakeholder Summit in Kempton Park on Monday, Zuma emphasised the need for dialogue to prevail, saying that education was a societal issue and that students’ futures should not be held to ransom.

Zuma urged stakeholders – among them business leaders, labour, the faith-based sector, students, parents and university management – to draw on the collective wisdom of all towards finding a solution.

He reiterated that government was committed to doing everything possible to progressively make higher education more affordable for all, and to be fee-free for the poor and the working class.

“Government cannot work alone to find a solution. Universities cannot find a solution working alone either. We need to work together for the sake of the future as a country and as a nation,” Zuma said.

“Education is the apex priority in our country. It is a powerful weapon at our disposal, to change our country for the better. It is a powerful weapon to produce the kind of skills that will help us achieve socioeconomic transformation and prosperity.”

The Higher Education Stakeholder Summit is a one-day gathering to find an immediate solution to the higher education crisis while the Fees Commission continues its investigation into the feasibility of free higher education in the country.

Universities across the country have been plunged into a state of paralysis since the announcement by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande that tertiary institutions could hike their fees for 2017, but not by more than eight percent.

Government also committed to paying the fee increases for next year on behalf of all poor, working class and “missing middle” families – those with a household income of up to R600,000 per annum.

The move would require the government to fork out an additional R2.5 billion to cover the resultant shortfall of income at state universities.

This means that students qualifying for help from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme “missing middle” students – an estimated 75% of the student population – would be spared fee increases in 2017.

Zuma said this was not the time for grandstanding, but a period of sound leadership from all of concerned to find solutions.

“We run the risk of a whole academic year being wasted if parents, students, university management and all stakeholders do not act now. That is why this meeting is so important,” Zuma said.

“Together, let us find a solution that will strengthen our universities, and not which will destroy them.”

Zuma said a vicious chain reaction would be set in motion if the academic year was suspended, meaning that next year’s university students would be negatively affected, especially at entrance level.

“We are not just gambling with the futures of the current generation of students, we are compromising the future of coming generations, and indeed the country,” Zuma said.

“We do not agree with those who say the future of our youth and the future of our country must be put on hold.”

Zuma also condemned violent students protests, saying that government disagreed with those who say that universities should be shut down while these solutions were being sought.

“We also do not agree that university infrastructure must be destroyed to send a message to government that education is too expensive in the country,” Zuma said.

“The wanton destruction of university property that we have witnessed are shocking criminal acts. The problems of education funding can never justify the violence and destruction, including the loss of human life and injury.”

A worker died at Wits University after inhaling fumes from a fire extinguisher during a students protest two weeks ago.

Another worker, who is a security guard, is fighting for his life in hospital after being attacked by students at the University of Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma said government had directed police to arrest those who were using the genuine grievances of students to commit serious crimes on campuses.

Earlier 

Senior lecturer speaks out about UCT chaos

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A senior lecturer in the physics department at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has spoken out about the chaos plaguing the institution.

Gregor Leigh said he taught first year students on Monday morning, and while between 80% and 90% of the classes’ students showed up, the lectures were disrupted as a mob entered the building and set off fire alarms.

Leigh told African News Agency (ANA) that many of the students were not against the protest, but recognised that “if we don’t get started and finish the year, then all so-called narratives will cease. There will be no further dialogue at any point.”

He said the students who attended two of his lectures on Monday burst out clapping; they were so relieved that an effort was being made to resume classes.

But he predicted serious implications if protests continued.

“The university will be bankrupt by June” if the institution submits to the demands for no fees.

And as UCT vice-chancellor Max Price has already warned, the university would not be able to accommodate a new intake of students in 2017.

“This is not protest, it’s intimidation; in some cases terrorism. These people have long been outside the law.”

He believes there needs to be more security.

“Many of us think that [if] we can avoid security confrontation, those people are smoking their socks.”

Leigh said the demands were unrealistic in the short term. He said this was not just about fees – the issues were multitudinous with the term “black pain” featuring strongly on campus.

“The born-frees are unhappy with the state of the nation. They are kicking out in frustration.”

But he was hopeful the university would be able to “dig itself out of this one way or another. We love this place dearly.”

Earlier: 

NUM-YS calls for tax on business to fund free higher education

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The National Union of Mineworkers Youth Structure (NUM-YS) on Monday said it supports the call by students for free education in South Africa “for the poor” and it urged parliament to make a law to tax businesses for that purpose.

“We are therefore calling our parliament to draft a legislation where companies will be taxed like we are doing with the skills levy,” said the NUM-YS in a statement two days after its ordinary National Committee (NC) meeting.

The NUM-YS remarks were made in the midst of ongoing student protests at state universities across the country. Some of the protests for free education have turned violent, leading to the destruction of property, including the torching of buses and buildings at these institutions. So far the destruction has been estimated at more than half a billion rand.

“While we support these genuine grievances of students, we caution them to guard against the criminal elements that are creeping to burn our infrastructures.

“The NUM-YS NC supports the notion that the private sector should play its rightful place. This calls for our government to declare free education for the poor in the country as resolved by the 2007 ANC Polokwane conference. The African National Congress should take a collective responsibility in this regard.”

The NUM-YS NC said it further commended the efforts undertaken by the minister of higher education and training to provide a way forward for supporting students financially in the country.

“While we welcome this intervention, we are of firm belief that this is just a short-term solution.

“We appeal to our government to craft or develop long-term sustainable funding methods that will benefit the most disadvantaged communities. Education is a right to each and every citizen in our country and it must be affordable.

“We depart by calling the students and communities to come together in bringing an amicable solution to the current student’s challenges.”

NUM-YS said it was “highly perturbed by the behaviour of both management of higher institutions and private security that had been harassing students” during these protests.

“The NC strongly condemns the burning of universities’ property; we are calling upon the state intelligence minister, Mr David Mahlobo, to assist in this regard to expose these criminal elements. We believe that there is a third force behind the destruction of university properties and they must be exposed.”

Earlier 

NMU still shut down amid student arrest

Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said a 22-year-old student was arrested under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act, which came into effect last year June and relates to damage to essential infrastructure.

“Barricades were set alight and the road was damaged; the student is currently being detained at Humewood Police Station,” said Naidu.

Naidu said that in terms of the student protests this was the first time police made an arrest under the Criminal Matters Amendment Act.

She said the student would not be able to get bail at the police station and a formal bail application would have to be done at court.

Protesting students along University Way near North Campus have since dispersed but police and security officials remained on the scene.

This is the third week in which NMMU is in a complete shutdown. Students were expected to hold a mass meeting later on Monday to continue talks on the campaign for free higher education and on whether to resume the academic activities or continue the shutdown.

NMMU said in a statement that management supported the establishment of a “free higher education system for the poor” and was of the view that all should be done to get the current sector funding crunch addressed.

Acting deputy vice-chancellor Lebogang Hashatse has agreed to support the student assembly by allowing shuttles to ferry students to campus.

– African News Agency (ANA)