Stores hit hard by DUT strike

2014-02-05 00:00

THE ongoing strike at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) has not only affected students and lecturers, but also the businesses that rely heavily on the city’s campus population.

The institution closed indefinitely last week after violent protests over the new National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Students who live in the residences were told to go home and DUT management and the student representative council (SRC) are meeting tomorrow to try and reach an agreement.

There were only a few students wandering on Steve Biko Street outside the Steve Biko campus yesterday.

The street is usually bustling with students and taxis.

For the businesses whose main customers are students, the protests have meant little to no trade.

The hip and happening spot for students, Papa Joe’s, was deserted yesterday.

Owner Sandesh Sewchuran said: “It’s dead, dead, dead. There’s nobody around. We survive solely on students.”

Co-owner Neil Patchapen echoed his partner’s sentiments. He said most of the businesses have not even recovered from December and having to come back to this has really affected them.

Papa Joe’s caters for the student budget — one can get a double burger with chips for about R25.

On a busy day, they cater for up to 1 000 customers, but Monday they said about 45 students came through their doors.

IT Project Internet Café manager Yougie Naidoo said he had also been crippled by the strike. There were only a few students surfing the Internet when The Witness popped in. They usually have long queues out the doors.

Barcelos Flame Grilled Chicken franchise manager Dennis Govender said he could not wait to see the students flock into his restaurant.

Van Schaick bookstore manager Ryan Robson said most of their clients are DUT students and they were battling.

“Our other customers come from UKZN, Unisa and Mangosuthu University of Technology but because of the violent protest they don’t want to come to our bookstore.”

The sales were just picking up when the university opened its gate for its first semester but this was short-lived.

“We hope that they can resolve their issues soon,” he added.

Street vendor Muzikhona Mkhize, who sells sweets, chips, cigarettes and airtime, said he too was feeling the pinch. “The students support us. Even though we keep the prices low, the money we get here helps us to take our kids to schools.”

DUT SRC president Ayanda Ngidi said he was hoping for a fruitful meeting with the vice-chancellor Professor Ahmed Bawa.

DUT’s spokesperson Alan Khan said: “Although we have unfortunately not found a solution to all the SRC’s demands as yet, we are making progress.”

He said the SRC was very keen for them to re-open the residences and get back to lectures.

“However, management is reluctant to agree to this without some level of confidence that the university will return to a state of peace and safety when it does re-open. More importantly, management wants to be confident that the conditions that will exist at that time [of re-opening] are conducive to teaching and learning. We are working on reaching this stage with the SRC,” he said.

Khan said only once they get a written commitment from the SRC that the violent protest action has been called off, will they consider getting back to business. The university will communicate to students via e-mail, SMS, student portal and social media informing students when things are back to normal.

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