Talks between protesting Rhodes students, VC fail

Grahamstown - Protesting students at Rhodes University abandoned talks with vice chancellor Sizwe Mabizela late on Monday morning after no agreement was reached on a decrease in students’ Minimum Initial Payment (MIP) before registration.

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Mabizela arrived just after 09:00 to speak to students, the university's independent student news source, Activate, reported.

University management offered 20% of full fees MIP, and an extended payment deadline. Students are, however, demanding a 10% MIP and the lowering of fees in general.

Questions have also been asked about international students' foreign levy, with Mabizela saying it might be possible to reduce the full amount payable to 75% of the total.

As the protest swept though Rhodes University on Monday morning, students were roused from their beds, swelling the numbers opposing the MIP, which currently stands at more than R40 000.

Entrances barricaded

The protest started at the drama department and quickly rolled over the rest of campus.

Barricades were set up at all entrances and exits to prevent lectures from taking place.

Protesters say they plan to barricade the institution until the end of the week, or until their demands were met.

The protest was supported by both the Black Students Movement and the Student Representative Council.

As a result, Mabizela announced in a circular that all academic activity would be cancelled for the day and that he – along with other members of top management – would meet students to discuss their concerns.

This has prompted concerns about tests and exams, especially for the accounting students who begin their final exams on Monday.

Burning tyres

The action taken on Monday was generally peaceful, despite the large size of the crowd. The campus protection unit told Activate that they were not going to attempt to break the strike up, but were rather on the look-out for vandals.

The protesters said they would release a memorandum of intent on Wednesday.

Deputy director of residence operations Jay Pillay confirmed early on Monday morning the dining halls would be running.

By late morning the barricades were still up, staff were barred from entering campus and police have asked students to remain on campus. Tyres were reportedly being burnt along Somerset Street.

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