We need to find a way forward – SAHRC on meeting with UCT

2016-02-23 22:00
(SAHRC, News24)

(SAHRC, News24)

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Cape Town – The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) chairperson met with the UCT task team on Tuesday amid vocal protests on campus over issues such as racism, transformation and fees.

SAHRC chairperson Lawrence Mushwana said the closed meeting at the University of Cape Town was “about trying to find a way to work together”. He said the SAHRC thought it needed to "sit down and find a way forward".

The commission asked the task team to brief it on the timeline of events since protests began last year over university fees.

Mushwana said they initially thought the task team included students. They realised upon arrival that it was only made up of university officials.

Task team members included deputy vice chancellor Francis Petersen, acting deputy vice chancellor Anwar Mall and executive director Russell Ally.

The commission said it still wished to talk to students. “Our biggest challenge is about not just going to the Student Representative Council but to different groups [representing students].”

Students losing focus

UCT spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said the meeting was “very constructive”, saying the university welcomed input by the SAHRC into the higher education sector as a whole and that UCT looked "forward to working with them".

According to SAHRC spokesperson, Isaac Mangena, the organisation had received many university-related complaints since last year, including over racism.

Mushwana said some students had complained about the conduct of police on campuses. He added that another issue that needed to be looked at was students without accommodation.

On Tuesday, police tape fluttered around a portion of the Bremner building where vice chancellor Max Price’s office was petrol bombed recently.

“The burning of the office shows that there is still a standoff. That is the impression I get,” said Mushwana.

The chairperson said it was not for the commission to judge but the right to peaceful protest was constitutionally allowed.

“What students have been doing is a very good thing and they achieved a lot. And I would think they would salvage their gains and move forward. I think it is unfortunate that they are losing focus."

Read more on:    uct  |  sahrc  |  cape town  |  university fees  |  protests  |  university protests

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