Students set to defy ban

2020-02-10 15:42
A file image of Members of the SAP keeping an eye out for any protests under the clock tower of Old Main Building at UKZN during the #FeesMustFall protests in 2016.

A file image of Members of the SAP keeping an eye out for any protests under the clock tower of Old Main Building at UKZN during the #FeesMustFall protests in 2016. (Ian Carbutt)

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The academic programme at all University of KwaZulu-Natal campuses will remain suspended until further notice after students vowed to continue protesting in defiance of a court interdict.

On Friday, the university obtained a court interdict, preventing student leaders from protesting at the institution. Students said they would be filing opposing affidavits.

In a notice issued last night, acting registrar Dr Kathy Cleland said a decision had been taken to extend the suspension of classes, which had been due to resume this morning, until further notice.

She said registration would continue, and urged students to complete the process as soon as possible.

The notice said the university’s Executive Management Committee would meet with the SRC tomorrow to “continue discussions”.

There have been protests at four of the university’s five campuses as students demand to have their historical debt cleared so they can register.

Fourteen students were arrested for being involved in violent protests across all campuses.

SRC president Sifiso Simelane said the interdict was unjust and an attempt by the university to intimidate them.

He said the interdict affected their constitutional right to protest.

“The court interdict means nothing. We are going back on the ground on Monday [today] and we will continue with the protests. We won’t back down. If it means we must strike until December, let it be,” Simelane said.

He promised that a “peaceful protest” would continue as they continued with the campaign to avoid the exclusion of any student from studying.

“We are not prepared to accept a situation where any student is sent back home because they cannot afford to pay for their studies. Registration must be free for those who cannot afford ... where else must they take that zeal to study?

“The silent response is that they should loiter on the streets of South Africa and join the drug addicts, thieves and robbers. This while the university uses money to pay lawyers for court interdicts and not using that money to help the needy students.”

While the SA Union of Students (Saus) suspended its call for a total shutdown of universities last week, Simelane said UKZN was refusing to implement resolutions made during the deal, which included allowing defaulting students to register and access their academic results.

“UKZN is just not budging. Saus is well aware of this,” he said.

He disputed that students were engaged in negotiations with the university’s management.

“It’s a pure lie,” Simelane said. “There have not been any negotiations. We met with management two weeks ago and it was agreed that we would convene again to write a letter to the Department of Higher Education and NSFAS but that has not happened. Instead, they have obtained an interdict.”

Simelane said the university refused to meet their demands, stating that it was owed funds by government to settle the debts of indebted students so that they could register.

UKZN previously said its debt stood at about R1,7 billion at the end of last year. “They tell us that the university is on the verge of bankruptcy but there are proposals to increase benefits for staff. Management says there is no money, but they are spending it on wasteful expenditure.”

Meanwhile, some UKZN students have taken to social media to say they faced possible financial exclusion as they cannot afford to pay 15% of their historical debt before being allowed to register.

“Forced to drop out on my final year just because I cannot afford the 15% UKZN demands. I owe R37 000 and UKZN demands R5 700 in order for me to register yet I am NSFAS funded,” tweeted one student.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn protests
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