Students in digs tell their side of the story

2014-04-09 00:00

STUDENTS in a Pietermaritzburg digs have responded to articles about the formation of a digs action group, describing the harassment they face in their home.

Mini Xulu said she struggled to get accommodation when she enrolled as a student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

For the first six months she stayed in Imbali, but this meant taking four taxis a day; from Imbali to town, then from town to Scottsville and back again.

She could not take advantage of the late hours the library stays open as she had to catch her taxi back by 4.30 pm and sometimes had to leave in the middle of a late lecture.

If she was late, it meant a long walk in the dark from the taxi rank to where she was staying.

Six months ago she found a place in Scottsville, a pleasant all-girls digs within walking distance of the university.

Xulu was thrilled; at last she would be able to experience all that she had heard and read about student life.

Alas, this was not to be. She hadn’t counted on what she described as the “neighbour from hell”.

Her digs-mate Piwe Piliso describes their neighbour’s behaviour as “stalking”.

Piliso said the neighbour spends most of the time patrolling the fence, watching their every movement, looking for any opportunity to complain.

The students asked to speak to The Witness following a story on the Digs Action Group preparing to do battle with the Msunduzi Municipality over the mushrooming of illegal student boarding houses in the suburb.

Given their experiences, they believed that such a group opposed black students living in the suburb and they wanted to tell their side of the story.

Xulu said, “Do you blame us for thinking like this? We feel as if we are constantly under siege. If we put our radio on she complains that it is too loud, when we are in the kitchen in the evening making our supper, she is walking up and down by her fence complaining. If she stayed inside her house instead of patrolling the fence, she wouldn’t hear us speak.”

Sam Buthelezi said that there is a pool at the digs that they now hardly use because the neighbour complains about the splashing.

According to the girls, they wanted to speak because there was another side to the story — the extreme difficulty in finding accommodation.

Buthelezi comes from Ingwavuma and said her family wanted to make sure that she had somewhere to stay that was safe and close to the campus.

Luella Msomi from Port Shepstone said she struggled to find accommodation because she had no family in Pietermaritzburg.

“For us, it is cheaper to stay in Scottsville. The four taxis we have to take from Edendale and Imbali and back are much more expensive.”

Pumula Jali said there is an assumption “that we just came here to have a good time”.

“Many of us do not come from privileged backgrounds. Our families are making great sacrifices for us to study so why would we spend all our time making a noise and not studying?” she asked.

Spokesperson for the Digs Action Group (DAG), which constituted itself into a formal entity this weekend, reiterated that the organisation was not anti-student or anti-black.

“The issue is that the town planning regulations are not enforced, so the rights of residents are compromised, and there is no urgency on the part of the authorities to provide proper accommodation,” Marcus Burnett said.

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