#FeesMustFall campaign leaders divide Wits students

2015-10-29 08:08
Wits University. (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

Wits University. (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

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Johannesburg - Distrust and confusion have sowed divisions in the #FeesMustFall campaign after some University of the Witwatersrand students claimed they no longer recognised the SRC leadership that has led the two-week movement.

This came after a weekend of scathing attacks on social media aimed at outgoing SRC president Shaeera Kalla and incoming president Nompendulo Mkatshwa.

- Read more: 'Financial exclusion is my reality'

The pair was accused of being coerced by the Progressive Youth Alliance to bring an end to the protests, after the students' demand that there be a 0% fee increase for the 2016 academic year was realised.

Rumours had circulated that the two women had met with national and provincial PYA members in a secret meeting at the weekend. Among the topics alleged to have been discussed at the meeting was an amount of R40 000, former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini, and whether the protests should be brought to an end.

On Tuesday, Wits released a statement saying classes would resume on Wednesday. The decision was made after a resolution was made between the university's management and the Student Representative Council, it said.

‘We can’t afford to lose the year’

"We urge all staff and students to do everything possible to fulfil the obligation of every one of us to get the academic programme back on track.

"We cannot afford for 32 500 students to lose the academic year. This will only serve to further entrench the inequality within our society.

"The university has agreed to address all outstanding concerns with the student leadership and will be engaging with them in this regard," Wits said.

On Wednesday, in response to the university's statement as well as the attacks on social media, Kalla took to Twitter in an effort to provide clarity.

She said the university's statement on the resolution that was reached was not true as no such meeting had taken place.

"We must clarify that there have been no meetings or negotiations between management and the SRC at any point."

She then addressed the issue of the "secret" PYA meeting.

"A PYA meeting that took place on Sunday 25 October. We must clear up the controversy that this has unfortunately caused.

"Both President Shaeera Kalla and incoming President Nompendulo Mkatshwa were present and many rumours have come out of this.

"The SRC affirms the right of all student organisations to freely meet.

"That being said, the only firm decision making platform for the #FeesMustFall movement have been mass student meetings called by the SRC," she tweeted.

She then said the amount of R40 000 which was discussed during the meeting had to do with donations made to the movement for food, drink and transport.

She assured students that the SRC had their best interests at heart and said there were attempts being made to tarnish the leadership's integrity.

Kalla ended by saying: "Disunity amongst students is what will kill the movement for Free Education".

But some students don't seem to be convinced and have said they felt used by the SRC, which was chasing its own political goals because the university itself was yet to address the pertinent issue of putting an end to the outsourcing of workers, as well as dealing with an alternative method of funding poor students.

"The SRC had their own political agenda. They got what they wanted, they wanted publicity... They misled everyone, because they had their own political agendas," one student said.

Continued protests

She was part of a smaller group of students who, on Wednesday, chose not to return to classes but continue protesting to their outstanding demands of free education and an end to outsourcing.

- Read more: Several fires started on Wits campus

"They gave us nothing and I wish everybody out there can actually understand. One minute they're with us, then the next minute [they're not]."

She said students no longer recognised the SRC as the leaders of the #FeesMustFall movement.

"We don't want your leadership anymore, we don't want it. This is a student movement, all of us are leaders.

"Nobody has personal agendas. We all have the same common goal to say 'come next year, and the year after and until I graduate, can I please... not be excluded because I don't have money."

Read more on:    wits university  |  johannesburg  |  education  |  university fees

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