Thousands evicted as DUT students protest - Students stranded as DUT shuts down indefinitely

2014-01-31 00:00

OVER 6 000 student beds were empty last night as the Durban University of Technology (DUT) made good on its promise to evict students following days of violent protest.

The university authorities shut down the institution until further notice and issued the ultimatum after students started protesting over the new National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

In Durban, 3 290 beds are in leased residences while 1 575 beds are in DUT-owned residences. In PMB, 1 252 beds are in DUT-owned residences and 1 010 in leased residences.

Security guards armed with batons entered Hertine Court, a residence in the Albert Park area, just before noon to evict students.

A third-year engineering student, S’ne Masikane from Kranskop, ran out of the residence shaken and close to tears. “I’m so scared I could cry right now,” she said. “I just saw the security guards and I thought they might start shooting.”

Sthembiso Dube, who lives in Empangeni, said he was going “to crash” at his mother’s workplace in Westville, where she is employed as a domestic worker. “She doesn’t even know that I’m coming,” he said. Dube hadn’t had time to pack all his belongings — his pots, blankets and groceries were left behind.

“Sometimes I wonder why I chose to study at DUT,” he said. “I pray that this comes to an end before the end of February,” he said, tears in his eyes as he walked away.

Bhutibhuti Mashaba from Mpumalanga said he called home to ask for money, but his parents did not believe his story. “You know, when you’re a student and you ask for money, they think you’re lying.”

Mashaba has no relatives in Durban and was relying on the university to give him about R800 for the fare home.

His friend from Vryheid, Sifiso Tungo, said they were losing faith in their studies. “It looks like we’re going to sleep at the sports centre. I wish there was a way for them to negotiate this strike to be over,” he added.

In Pietermaritzburg, at Rivers End in Chase Valley, the last group of students were being escorted off the premises by a security guard in a car who followed the group as they walked off the premises.

The group, friends from the Eastern Cape told The Witness they did not want to give their names for fear of reprisal.

They said they were worried about money as they had to borrow the taxi fare home.

One of the women, studying public relations, said she had paid her residence fees in advance. She called DUT’s move “heavy handed”.

An accounting student said the Pietermaritzburg campuses had not experienced the same degree of trouble as Durban and the students should not be victimised in the same way.

Another woman said she had been forced to leave the residence while taking a bath.

Meanwhile, South African Students Congress (Sasco) provincial chairperson Dumo Ntyinkala said the protest will continue and said there would be peaceful marches on Monday. He said there were some 3 000 students who were not registered because they are waiting for responses to their appeals.

While senior director of corporate affairs at DUT Alan Khan said that 1 466 students vacated their rooms in residences in Pietermaritzburg he was not able to furnish the exact number of students affected in Durban.

“Over the past day, we have worked with the SRC to assist those students who needed funds to travel home,” he said.

“We are not in a position to say when the protest action will end,” Khan said. “That decision lies with the SRC.”

He said the university has remained in communication with the SRC this week and written to the student leaders to explain DUT’s position. “The vice-chancellor Professor Ahmed Bawa is giving this matter his undivided attention.”

The students want the university and the Department of Higher Education to fund students studying bachelor of technology degrees.

Meanwhile, another R1 billion has been added to NSFAS, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said yesterday.

He said the funds, sourced from National Skills Fund, was to cover the 2013 and 2014 shortfall,” he said, adding that NSFAS had a shortfall of R2,6 billion in 2013.

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