Walter Sisulu University boycott heats up as students demand no fee increase

Protesters clash with police, and other students

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Photo of protesting students
Walter Sisulu University students have been protesting since last week. Photo: Siphokazi Vuso

Despite Walter Sisulu University (WSU) being granted an interim interdict against protesting students, the students have vowed to continue with their #FeesMustFall protest until their demands are met.

On its Facebook page the university management wrote:

Walter Sisulu University has obtained an interdict against its students. The students are hereby interdicted and restrained from:

1.1.1 Damaging, interfering with, destroying or stealing Applicant’s property;

1.1.2 Entering Applicant’s administration offices for any unlawful purpose;

1.1.3 Assaulting or threatening to assault members of the

Applicant’s staff or security officials in the employ of the Applicant;

1.1.4 Disrupting or disturbing any academic activities conducted by the Applicant, including examinations;

1.1.5 Enticing any person or student to commit any of the acts

referred to in 1.1.1 to 1.1.4.

Students on three campuses abandoned classes last week demanding answers about next year’s fees. GroundUp reported on Friday that students from Nelson Mandela Drive campus in Mthatha clashed with police. The protests coincide with the ongoing Fees Commission hearings.

Protests started on Friday at the Buffalo City campus in East London and the Ibika Campus in Butterworth. Ten students were arrested on Friday in Butterworth. They appeared in the town’s magistrate court on Monday facing charges of malicious damage to property. They are alleged to have blocked the N2 between Butterworth and Mthatha, stoning passing cars. The case was postponed to 30 September.

As a result of the protest exams that were supposed to take place on Monday were postponed to Thursday.

On Tuesday in Buffalo City SRC members led a group of 400 students. They forced their way into residences kicking doors, and threw water at students who refused to join the protest.

The students then preceded going down Oxford Street to Eskom House, the main campus where they gathered outside chanting.

On Wednesday South African Students’ Congress Chairperson Vuyo Pakana said they have no intention of going back to classes until their demands are met.

He said that besides the national issue of fee increasing, there are also issues that they want the university to solve such as a shortage of accommodation. He said some student accommodation has broken ceilings and that when it rains, water comes in. (GroundUp reported in January that students at the Butterworth campus were protesting over conditions in their residences.)

“We want the University to listen and meet our demands. We will only go back to classes once our demands have been met,” said Pakana.

Students are also demanding that the university stop holding back results when students still owes them money because they need the results to get employed.

Another Sasco member, Sfiso Zwezwe from Buffalo City Campus, said that they are also demanding that the University implement a plan to assist students with their debts.

“We are here because we want these issues to be resolved immediately. We do not want to write exams dealing with the same issues. We will only stop when the university takes us seriously, and takes action towards our education,” he said. His views were echoed by students we spoke to in Butterworth.

WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said students need to solidify their demands. She said they had a meeting with students last Friday and some of the issues they have brought to the management’s attention are issues that the university cannot answer.

For example, she said the university cannot answer questions about the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) because they are also waiting for a response. She said infrastructural problems in student accommodation are a consequence of students vandalism.

“We are going to have a meeting with the SRCs from all campuses again to plead with them to stop these protests so that everything can go back to normal,” she said.

TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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