Intervene in Walter Sisulu University: Cope

By Drum Digital
03 September 2013

The closure of Walter Sisulu University (WSU) last week calls for President Jacob Zuma's intervention, the Congress of the People said on Tuesday.

"Our provincial development plan shall confirm education as a cornerstone for the success of a developmental state and therefore a matter of national priority thus requiring at this point, an intervention at that level," Cope provincial secretary Archie Ralo said in a statement.

"Accordingly, we join all in calling for the intervention of the presidency on this matter."

Ralo said the intervention should ensure that learning and teaching took place at the university with immediate effect, while the problems were being resolved.

"No amount of dispute can justify neglect of education," Ralo said.

DispatchOnline reported that United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, and traditional, church and community leaders met in Mthatha to discuss issues affecting WSU.

Delegates attending the meeting passed a vote of no confidence in Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and appealed to a newly established task team to urge Zuma to intervene.

"The workers have passed a vote of no confidence in Minister Blade Nzimande and now want President Zuma to intervene urgently, fearing for the collapse of the institution," Holomisa 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 task team included Holomisa; Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) president Phathekile Holomisa; Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chairman Ngangomhlaba Matanzima; ANC MPs Zukile Luyenge and Vatiswa Bam-Mugwanya; and Council of Churches regional chairman Vusumzi Mabo.

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

On Wednesday the university closed its doors indefinitely.

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 percent increase this year.

He said he met the parties concerned in early August, but was unable to reach a settlement over increases 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 led to protests by students who clashed with police on Wednesday.

At least a dozen students were injured during the scuffles.

-Sapa

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