University residences close early

| Thembela Ntongana, Ashleigh Furlongand Tariro Washinyira
CPUT students Siya Davids and Luzuko Namba wait for a cab to leave the residence. Photo by Tariro Washinyira.

The deadlines for students at the University of the Western Cape and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to vacate their residences came and went this week with many students refusing to leave.

Students at both institutions said they had nowhere to go since their parents could not afford to bring them home until the end of the month.

UWC had set a deadline of noon today, and CPUT a deadline of 4pm on Wednesday.

Some UWC students called the forced move an “illegal eviction” and others said either that they could not afford to leave now or that they needed the campus facilities to complete their exams or theses.

The university had promised to provide alternative accommodation for final year students who were writing exams, but no definite decision had been made concerning postgraduate or international students.

This afternoon, Shervaan Rajie, Director of Legal Services at UWC, told students gathered outside residences that alternative accommodation had been arranged for students who were still writing exams and those who had to submit theses.

He said the move out of the residences was for the students’ “own well-being”. There were no cleaners or caterers on campus, he said. “There is a fire risk as the fire extinguishers have been removed; this is a risk to students.”

Kaizer Festile of FeesMustFall responded to Rajie by saying that the academic year had yet to end and that many students needed access to the library and wifi. He said the alternative accommodation provided by the university had no wifi and the rooms had to be shared by six to eight people, which was “not conducive” to studying. He also said the fire extinguishers could be put back.

Lindokuhle Mandyoli, also of FeesMustFall, proposed that students be allowed to stay in the Chris Hani and Liberty residences while the other residences were repaired.

Many students did not have the money to go home now, he said.

A foreign student told Rajie that many of the students’ parents were paid only at the end of the month and could not afford to pay flights home for their children until then.

Another student said he had paid for his accommodation at the university until the end of the month and so should be allowed to stay until then.

“I am a tenant here, I pay rent here, Mr Rajie,” said one student. He said that the legal requirement for an eviction was to give tenants three months to vacate and that this had not been done.

Last night students cleaned up their residences in anticipation of the health and safety inspection today.

This morning, when inspectors arrived, the residences looked spotless. The inspectors recorded what had been damaged during the protests over the past few weeks.

A final year student at UWC told GroundUp that he had tried to call the helpline provided by the university for queries relating to the move, but had received no response. He has opted to write his exams in December and as a student from KwaZulu-Natal he wants the university to provide alternative accommodation for him until he writes.

Other postgraduate, final year and international students also said that they had tried to email and call the contacts provided by the university, but to no avail.

One student said there were many “innocent people” who had not taken part in the protests but did not have the money to go home. He said university management was “so focused on defeating FeesMustFall” that “they are sacrificing people’s lives”.

Yesterday some students at the CPUT Bellville campus packed up their things to meet the 4pm deadline, but others decided to stay.

University management had told students on Monday that academic activities “and therefore residence activities” for all but final year students were over and only final year and “exit level” students writing exams next week would be allowed to stay in the residences. The directive was later changed to include students completing in-service training, postgraduate students who had experiments which could not be stopped, and students with projects to be completed. Assessments for other courses had been suspended until January 2016, the university management said.

Third year student Sbusisiwe Myeki said she had paid her fees until December. She was one of several students from the Eastern Cape who said they had nowhere else to go in Cape Town.

Nkululeko Qaukeni from Mthatha said his family had managed to find him a place in Mfuleni. “I am doing my first year in electrical engineering and have not written my exams. I was supposed to start on Monday.

“But now we are told to go home,” said Qaukeni.

On the CPUT campus in the city centre, students had made a list of about 39 students from residences who needed accommodation to present to the university management.

Yanick Basa (a student representative council member) said he was from Democratic Republic of Congo and had planned to leave the residence only in the first week of December.

“Those who do not have relatives or friends here in Cape Town, like me, should be provided with alternative accommodation,” said Basa. “Our parents have paid R27,000 for residence here, so where are they expected to get money for alternative accommodation? Even in normal life a landlord cannot give his or her tenant two days eviction notice … If the university is serious about evicting us they should show us an eviction order from a court.”

Siya Davids from East London said the situation was stressful. “I will be staying with friends until month-end when my parents send me money to come home.”

At UWC, Rajie was to meet with students this evening at 5pm to relay the university management’s response to their argument as to why they should be allowed to stay in residence.

Update: 20 November

Students who remained in UWC residences are still refusing to vacate their rooms despite the university declaring the residences officially closed in a communication to students in residence.

FeesMustFall requested a meeting with management for 1pm, today, but no representative arrived.

“The protest is simple, we remain in our rooms. It is non-violent,” said a student.

There have been reports of matrons at residences double locking students’ rooms and several students were fearful that they would be locked out.

“Every time I want to study I’m scared they are going to say that I must move,” said another student.

Students said they needed to stay on campus for the facilities and they could not afford to leave.

TOPICS:  Education

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