Holomisa calls on Zuma to end WSU strike

2013-09-03 15:24

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa has called on President Jacob Zuma to intervene to end the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) strike, the DispatchOnline reported on Tuesday.

“The workers have passed a vote of no confidence in (Higher Education) Minister Blade Nzimande and now want President Zuma to intervene urgently, fearing for the collapse of the institution,” the UDM leader was quoted as saying.

“Community members cry as they feel the university is under threat and they want Zuma to declare what is going on in WSU as a crisis,” he reportedly said.

The protracted strike was in its seventh week and talks were set to continue between representatives of the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the National Tertiary Education Union and university management.

Staff were demanding an 8% to 10% increase while management was only offering 4.25% backdated to January this year.

The DispatchOnline reported Holomisa and traditional, church and community leaders met in Mthatha to discuss issues affecting WSU.

Stakeholders attending the meeting passed a vote of no confidence in Nzimande and appealed to a newly established task team to urge Zuma to intervene.

The task team included Holomisa; the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA president Phathekile Holomisa; Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chairperson Ngangomhlaba Matanzima; ANC MPs Zukile Luyenge and Vatiswa Bam-Mugwanya; and Council of Churches regional chairperson Vusumzi Mabo.

Holomisa reportedly said they would write to the presidency on Tuesday asking for intervention.

But in a statement later on Tuesday, Eastern Cape SA Communist Party spokesperson Siyabonga Mdodi dismissed the vote of no confidence in Nzimande as an “anticommunist sentiment”.

“We view some of the comments as anticommunist sentiments disguised as (a) genuine voice representing the plight of the university,” said Mdodi.

He called the vote unfair.

“We find this to be very unfair as no one denies the resources pumped into the university under the leadership of comrade Blade Nzimande, who is not the minister of WSU but the minister of the department of higher education and training with many challenges,” said Mdodi.

On Thursday, higher education director-general Gwebs Qonde said the university was still technically and commercially bankrupt.

Qonde said the university could only afford a 4.25% increase.

Qonde said he had met the parties concerned in early August, but was unable to reach a settlement as the unions did not appear to grasp the gravity of their demands and the potentially disastrous consequences.

Qonde defended the administrator’s decision to shut down all WSU campuses and send students home.

“The risk to safety of students and prolonged nature of the strike has resulted in the university taking the decision to vacate the residences and send students home for a short term,” he said.

The decision has already led to protests by students who clashed with police on Wednesday.

At least a dozen students were injured during the scuffles.

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