Right2Know gets behind suspended UKZN students

2014-03-10 00:00

THE Right2Know Campaign has condemned the University of KwaZulu-Natal for suspending four students who wrote an open letter to the vice-chancellor –– calling it “unjust”, “unconstitutional” and “outrageous”.

R2K, a coalition of about 400 organisations, has called the university to drop the misconduct charges immediately.

The Witness reported last month that four students, Lukhona Mnguni, Mnikeni Phakathi, Thembani Khumalo and Siyabonga Khumalo, wrote a five page letter to Vice-Chancellor Professor Malegapuru William Makgoba, accusing him of turning a blind eye to the students’ cries following the protests over the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and extension of the registration date.

“Students currently have memories of fear, indifference, and lack of sympathy, neglect and anger with the management you lead … You have insisted on engaging SRC members albeit at a distance in most cases. Your absent presence has been highly felt; the ship has hit an iceberg,” the letter read in part.

R2K accused UKZN of trying to silence the students’ concerns by “adopting a defensive” and “wholly misplaced legalistic response” and applauded the students for expressing their opinion.

“The response from university management –– to stifle dissent, free thinking, and to deny the public’s right to receive information –– betrays the university’s stated commitment to freedom of expression and the open exchange of opinions and ideas,” R2K added.

They said students should be afforded an ear and not be treated as “enemies” and “subjected to heavy-handed disciplinary measures”.

KZN South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) said they were also appalled and dismayed by the attitude of UKZN.

“The crime of these students is that they dared to write an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the university, challenging him with material evidence to persuade the powers that be to extend the registration deadline in the main,” Sasco provincial chairperson Dumo Ntyinkala said, adding that there was a growing trend in institutions of higher learning in SA that try to subordinate students.

“By seeking to silence these four students, the university management is playing into the hands of a tyrannical practice whereby academic leaders believe that they are beyond reproach and in fact they see themselves as Messiahs of the problems in our society. The honest truth is that even the most esteemed professors remain fallible human beings …”

They argued that universities are public institutions and as a result they must continue to live up to the spirit of the country’s Constitution.

“From here on we will refer to these students as the big four because they have managed to stand up and be counted to expose the arrogance that is embedded within management structures of Universities across the country and in particular KwaZulu-Natal.”

Durban University of Technology has suspended its SRC leadership following violent protests, which Sasco said was also worrying.

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