UWC caught between a rock and a hard place

2015-11-17 07:25
(Thulani Gqirana, News24)

(Thulani Gqirana, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town – Demands that lack legitimacy. A student leadership not elected through a democratic process. Students with leaders who lack negotiation experience.

These were some of the factors that have led to the continued protests at the University of the Western Cape said the South African Institute of Race Relations' Sara Gon.

The protests at the university have become increasingly violent in the past two weeks, with students on Monday arrested for setting fire to a building and two booths at the institution.

With students placing the blame for the continued protests on managers and the university in turn putting the blame on students reneging on a signed agreement, the two parties have reached a standoff.

Gon said the original #Feesmustfall movement and its participants had direction, but with the continued protests, this had been lost.

The #FeesWillFall movement at UWC has demanded that the University find a way to write-off historic debt worth more than R270m. With the South African Students Congress taking a back seat and the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania at the forefront, the university is left with a quandary, Gon said.

This was further made even more difficult by students who did not understand that you could not solve the standoff with violence or physical confrontation, she said.

“The difficult choice the university is faced with is to what extent they continue with democratic process in terms of dealing with Sasco, who were elected by the students, or dealing with this group that has suddenly taken leadership of the protests? If you give them credence, it could send out terrible messages.”

She said the university might not even be able to identify who to negotiate with at this stage, as the students were in groups.

“There are now elements involved that are jumping on the bandwagon. And the demands now lack legitimacy to the point where we don’t even know what the demands are.”

Police presence

Commenting on the police presence on campus, she said the situation had now reached a point where the only response left to the university was to take a framework within the law.

“There is a tipping point in which the university, in fact all universities might decide they are done negotiating.”

With the accelerating violence, the universities and students have started playing the blame game.
On Monday, Pasma national leadership blamed the Western Cape vice chancellors for breaking promises made to students.

“No one is responsible for what is happening in both institutions except their managers. If there is a tactic played by Western Cape VCs over students there, the Department of Higher Education must intervene before [a] lot [of] damage happens.”

Parents of UWC and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) also placed the blame solely at the door of the different institutions.

The parents insisted in a joint statement on Monday that their children were not hooligans nor were they criminals.

“We strenuously reject the crude propaganda of University management to cast them in this light. This is nothing short of attempting to criminalise the student struggle so as to avoid negotiating with their legitimate demands and grievances.”

This after almost 30 CPUT students appeared in the Bellville Magistrate's Court in relation to violent protests.

Their case was postponed.

While the CPUT students appeared in court, three protesters were arrested at UWC for arson for setting fire to the Reslife Building and the security booths outside the Kovacs Building at the institution.

Gon said the level of destruction and violence were threatening to bankrupt UWC.

Read more on:    uct  |  cput  |  uwc  |  cape town  |  univeristy fees  |  protests  |  education

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.