UKZN braces as rift widens

2016-09-26 09:54
"Strike with us or be against us...," warn student leaders.

"Strike with us or be against us...," warn student leaders. (File)

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A further week of violent showdowns looms at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with students saying they will continue to protest, while UKZN management plans to strengthen security and ensure there are no interruptions to scheduled lectures and tests.

A message being distributed on WhatsApp Sunday warned students not to be seen on campus with bags or books from Monday until Friday.

“We advise you to strike with us or be against us … those who are against us will be dealt with,” it read.

SRC president Siphelele Nguse said the students would organise support measures for their 11 colleagues arrested last week and two who are nursing injuries in hospital. The students were arrested after the protest action reached a boiling point last week when protesters threw stones and bricks at security personnel and passing motorists. “We need to organise resources for them, especially the female students.

“Obviously jail is not a good place for anyone. There is anxiety among the students about their futures. For most of them, it is the first time that they find themselves in jail, and the fear of not knowing what is going to happen on Friday [when they appear in court again] is getting to them,” said Nguse.

Star Radebe, of Sasco UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus, said the movement would continue to support the students’ call for free education.

“It was long promised and has been sung as an election song by many. We believe this is the time for the implementation of free education for the poor. As people who are on the ground, we know and have a better understanding of the situation and therefore any attempt by any individual to analyse the situation without being on the campus premises is a real mistake.

“Apart from the call for free education, UKZN PMB students submitted a memorandum of demands to the university management and were told that the council will resolve their matters.

“However, because of the lack of commitment from council, the issues were never resolved, but were referred to another committee that will look at them next month,” he said.

#FeesMustFall and EFF Student Command activist Xola Mehlomakhulu said the “shutdown” (of normal activity on the campus) would continue.

“The arrested students have told us to continue with the shutdown. They have said that what has happened to them must not scare us and we should continue fighting.

“We will continue putting pressure on the police to release the arrested students. We have been speaking to lawyers who have told us that this is just a tactic to scare students not to continue with the strike.

“This is infuriating students and it is becoming difficult for us leaders to speak to them,” he said.

Mehlomakhulu said the situation remained tense at the campus. “It is very difficult to call a meeting because there is a witch-hunt against student activists,” he said, adding he was not worried about the effects of the continued disruptions on the academic calendar.

Lectures were suspended for two weeks last month after student protests broke out at the campus.

UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said a plan to recover lost time had been developed, and that consultations to adopt the plan were continuing.

“If there are more disruptions, that calendar would have to be altered. Our [plan] is to strengthen security to make sure there are no more disruptions,” he said. Seshoka said lectures had continued without disruption on four of the university’s campuses last week.

It is believed the students met until late last night to plan the week’s protest action.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn protests

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