NMMU shutdown enters day 4 amid claims of rogue elements in protests

2016-09-23 15:38
Protesting students. (News24)

Protesting students. (News24)

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Port Elizabeth – The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University has again been forced to close its doors despite announcing on Thursday that normal academic activities will resume on Friday.

A small group of students once again barricaded the entrance to the main campus with upturned benches, pallets and burning tyres starting early on Friday morning, with students being turned away despite arrangements being made for them to return and write tests and hand in assignments.

"A group of students and other individuals, who are not registered students or staff members, seem determined to destabilise our university.

"This is of huge concern to us since the safety and security of our staff and students is a key priority – hence the decision to advise staff and students to stay away," said acting vice-chancellor Dr Sibongile Muthwa in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Muthwa said if the issue was not resolved soon the university could be forced to suspend its operations even further.

"Should our engagement with students prove to be yet again inconclusive, the university will be compelled to implement drastic measures going forward including possibly bringing our academic project to a halt until we can guarantee the safety of all our students and staff," she said.

Muthwa said various student groupings, including the student representative council (SRC), initially formed a coalition to collectively voice their concerns in relation to the announcement, but were divided in their approach.

Engagement 'complicated'

"On Tuesday and Wednesday management tried to engage with this joint group publicly on two occasions but this proved to be unsuccessful as the students were not unified on the way forward," she said.

Muthwa said no memorandum of demands had been handed over by students in Port Elizabeth at the gatherings. The George student council did, however, submit a petition.

"The student groupings in both Port Elizabeth and George are now completely divided, making engagement and decision-making much more complicated and protracted," she said.

Muthwa said she had however received a petition from the SRC just before 11:00 on Friday morning, but said it was not clear whether this also represented the concerns of the various student formations.

In a Facebook post on the official SRC page, the SRC members said they had been engaging with university management over their demands for the better part of the day.

Muthwa went on to say that some student groupings were sharing inaccurate information via social media, especially with regards to management failing to respond to the students' demands.

Anxious students, staff

"In spite of several invitations from management to submit a consolidated petition representing students' concerns, this has not yet been forthcoming," she said.

She said NMMU management was aware that the present uncertainty was causing considerable anxiety among staff and students, especially given that these disruptions were negatively impacting the academic programme.

"We will soon be sharing in detail the proposed responses to the present challenges facing both NMMU and the sector in general," she said.

"Management remains committed to various forms of engagement towards reaching resolutions to restore normality on our campuses. The invitation is open to the leadership of the various student formations in the interests of resuming the academic project soonest," said Muthwa.

Muthwa said a number of interventions had already been implemented in an attempt to minimise the negative impact of time already lost due to the disruptions.

Read more on:    nmmu  |  port elizabeth  |  university protests  |  education  |  university fees  |  protests

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