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Johannesburg - The presidency has been asked to intervene in labour disagreements at the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape, it said on Tuesday.
“President Jacob Zuma has today (Tuesday) received a request from the SA Council of Churches (SACC) in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, to intervene in the Walter Sisulu University labour dispute,” presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
“President Zuma is looking into the matter and has appealed to all affected parties to strive for an amicable solution,” he said.
Earlier, the DispatchOnline reported that United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa and traditional, church and community leaders met in Mthatha on Monday to discuss the issues affecting WSU.
Delegates at the meeting passed a vote of no confidence in Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and appealed to a newly-established task team to urge Zuma to intervene.
“The workers have passed a vote of no confidence in Minister Blade Nzimande and now want President Zuma to intervene urgently, fearing for the collapse of the institution,” Holomisa was quoted as saying.
“Community members cry, as they feel the university is under threat and they want Zuma to declare what is going on in WSU as a crisis,” he reportedly said.
The task team included Holomisa; Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA president Phathekile Holomisa; Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chairman Ngangomhlaba Matanzima; African National Congress MPs Zukile Luyenge and Vatiswa Bam-Mugwanya; and SACC regional chairman Vusumzi Mabo.
Holomisa reportedly said they would write to the presidency on Tuesday.
The Congress of the People called for Zuma's intervention to ensure that learning and teaching took place at the university with immediate effect, while the problems were being resolved.
“No amount of dispute can justify neglect of education,” Cope provincial secretary Archie Ralo said in a statement.
Ralo said the situation at the university was a matter of national priority, and required an intervention at presidential level.
On Wednesday, the university indefinitely closed its doors.
On Thursday, higher education director general Gwebs Qonde said the university was still technically and commercially bankrupt.
Qonde said the university could afford only a 4.25 percent increase this year.
He said he met the parties concerned in early August, but was unable to reach a settlement about increases as the unions did not appear to grasp the gravity of their demands and the potentially disastrous consequences.
Qonde defended the university administrator's decision to shut down all WSU campuses and send students home.
“The risk to safety of students and the prolonged nature of the strike has resulted in the university taking the decision to vacate the residences and send students home for a short term,” he said.
The decision led to protests by students, who clashed with police on Wednesday. At least a dozen students were injured in the scuffles. - Sapa