Support for UJ protesters

2015-11-07 18:10
(Lizeka Tandwa, News24)

(Lizeka Tandwa, News24)

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Cape Town - A massive outpouring of support was offered to the 141 University of Johannesburg protesters while spending the night at the notorious Brixton police cells after being scooped up in mass arrests, one of their legal advisers said on Saturday.

Candidate attorney Wandisa Phama said supporters outside the police station rallied to fetch food, headache tablets and sanitary towels for the massive group arrested around the University's Kingsway campus on Friday afternoon.

The group of mainly students and workers were arrested for allegedly violating a court order obtained by the university, barring them from coming within 500m of the entrance to campuses as exams started for its 42 000 students during the nationwide fees and outsourcing protests. Phama said the SA Human Rights Commission went to the holding cells and between them, and supporters gathered outside, a collective co-ordination effort was started.

The process of releasing students on free bail with a warning started on Saturday morning, to the relief of people who had stayed awake outside the police station waiting for them. ''Transport to get home today was arranged by UJ and Wits students who collected money for taxi fare,'' said Phama, based at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits.

While the students were being released, legal teams were discussing strategy for the massive bail application expected to take place at the Brixton Magistrate's Court on Monday. University of Johannesburg vice chancellor for strategy Mpho Letlape told News24 that protesters were informed before their arrests that they were in violation of the order.

''They were requested to disperse and they did not do so.'' She said the order itself was distributed on campuses, given to people at the gates, and was disseminated on social media, so its terms were known.
Letlape said UJ had already agreed said it would stop outsourcing, and had reached an agreement over this between the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union, and student representatives.

But it had also been made clear that the outsourcing could not stop immediately because of contractual obligations. ''There is no way we can fast track this. It is a legal process to get out of a contract. And you can't short circuit it in any way,'' said Letlale.

A task team will find out how this can be done, and will propose solutions to the university's council. The council sits in March next year. The University was also trying to manage disparate groups all claiming to represent workers and students when current negotiations are with Nehawu, who the workers pay dues to, and the Students Representative Council (SRC), she explained.

R15 million to give 3500 students free food

But some students have rejected the SRC and another union is trying to be present at the meetings.
''On Tuesday three different groups declared themselves as leaders. I have done nothing else this week, but talk,'' she said.

Letlape said the university was doing everything it could to support students by for example contracting Gift of the Givers at a cost of R15 million to give 3500 students free food, and had given millions to top up the National Students Financial Aid Scheme.

In a video posted on UJ's website, vice chancellor Ihron Rensburg said that this week groups of people ''trashed'' the campus by leaving taps running, blocking drains and burning a guard house. The broke concrete palisades to get on to the property, and banged on the library doors to disrupt some of the 42,000 students studying for exams.

He said the contract for security would end ''soon'' and the process of ''insourcing'' at better salaries could begin.

At a Cabinet briefing at Parliament on Thursday, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said government was still working on finding at least R2.4 billion to cover the shortfall that will arise from the promise announced by President Jacob Zuma that university fees not go up next year.

So far, budgeting has not included buying universities out of labour contracts.






Read more on:    university of johannesburg  |  johannesburg  |  education

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