No end in sight for Unisa shutdown, students vow to continue on Monday

Scene at Unisa (Alex Mitchley, News24)
Scene at Unisa (Alex Mitchley, News24)

The shutdown of the University of South Africa's (Unisa) Sunnyside campus in Tshwane has entered its fifth day, but there doesn't seem to be an end in sight as students and unions are expected to intensify protests next week.

Students have kept the Sunnyside campus on lockdown since Monday.

Unisa spokesperson Martin Ramotshela told News24 that the Sunnyside campus was still on lockdown after an impasse was reached in its negotiations with disgruntled South African Students Congress (Sasco) members on Tuesday.

Ramotshela previously said university management and Sasco members were only able to agree on two of the six issues raised and common ground could not be found. The shutdown could therefore not be halted.

READ: Shutdown continues as Unisa and disgruntled Sasco members fail to reach agreement

Ramotshela later explained that one of the demands was that those who applied to study at the institution, must be accepted irrespective of the university's limit on the number of students it could take.

"We can't exceed the numbers. We are not policy makers, we are policy implementers," said Ramotshela.

He added that offers were made to some of the students who qualified but who weren't initially accepted. They are currently registering those students.

READ: Sasco vows to continue protesting until Unisa meets its demands

It is also understood that prospective students had also not had feedback from Unisa about whether their applications were successful. Ramotshela urged all students who hadn't had feedback about their applications to contact Unisa for assistance.

Members of the National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) have given their support to the students, who vowed to shut down the campus until their demands were met.

Ntsako Nombelani, Nehawu's national organiser for higher education, told News24 that the Sunnyside campus would be shut down again on Monday and that it would intensify.

Meanwhile, Ramotshela said the university was open to continue talks and that an offer had been made to Sasco to go back to the negotiating table.

Sasco disrupts University of the Free State 

On Wednesday, students purportedly also from Sasco in Bloemfontein, disrupted student academic services on the University of the Free State's (UFS) Bloemfontein campus.

The group of students allegedly blocked entry to the campus from one of five gates, UFS spokesperson Lacea Loader said.

"The on-campus student academic services programme was subsequently temporarily suspended. However, online and email academic services continued as normal," said Loader.

UFS also dismissed claims that the students disrupted on-campus registration, saying that while online registration started on Monday, on-campus registration only starts on January 21. 

"The only student academic services currently available on the campus are that of information services and enquiries from students visiting faculties, as well as assistance with online access to the Central Application Clearing House (CACH)."

Loader added that UFS management engaged with the implicated group of students, as well as representatives of the Institutional Student Representative Council (ISRC).

"Concessions between the university and the ISRC were reached [on Thursday]."

"The management furthermore condemned the behaviour of the group of students who disrupted the student academic services programme," Loader added.

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