Pretoria - Boosted by a weekend interdict allowing Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) hostel residents back on campus, student leaders say they will proceed with a mass protest on Monday.
Late on Sunday, some residence students remained uncertain about their position and when they would be able to return to their rooms. Many in Soshanguve had taken shelter in the Falala Community Hall in block F.
Cecil Dlamini, a second-year education student, sat solemnly facing a blank wall as he contemplated what to do next. “I’ve been here since Thursday. I won’t lie, this is a hard place to be in. Ten of us guys sleep in a small cubicle. We wait in line for cold showers and we have no money or food,” Dlamini said on Sunday.
“We’re grateful for any help we can get at the moment,” he said, referring to a councillor who brought them food, “but we still had to look for pots to cook the stuff we got to begin with. It’s just not enough,” said Moatsi Phakamani, a third year language practice student, also taking shelter in the community hall.
On Thursday, following protests over student funding which turned violent, TUT closed all its campuses and gave hostel residents until 7.30am on Friday to vacate their rooms. Some students said they had to leave their belongings behind as they couldn’t carry everything.
Hundreds of students, especially those from other provinces who could not go home, were left stranded.
The TUT website there are 30 residences in the Tshwane region, with most accommodating an average of 250 students each. The Heights in the west of Pretoria can accommodate about 850 students.
On Saturday, the Socialist Youth Movement and TUT’s Student Representative Council (SRC), supported by Lawyers for Human Rights, won an interdict in the Pretoria High Court against the eviction of students from residences.
Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (Pasma) spokesman, Vusi Mahlangu, said the order stated students should be allowed back on to campus with immediate effect.
However, TUT spokeswoman Willa de Ruyter urged students not to return to the campus until they have received official communication from campus management.
“We are aware of the court order but the sheriff has not served it on us as yet which means it’s not in effect. We cannot respond to rumours. The sheriff has to serve the order on the institution, the content thereof will still have to be studied first, then a decision will be made. We urge students not to return to campus until they have heard from us,” she said on Sunday afternoon.
“We expected the notice would have been served by Sunday afternoon (on Sunday) which means they cannot turn students away today, because that will be another unlawful act by management,” Mahlangu said. As far as the student march was concerned, “we are more ready than ever”, he added.
The closure of the campuses remains in force, but student leaders are adamant that nothing will keep them from mobilising this morning and entering the Pretoria campus where they are expected to protest.
Students handed in a memorandum to management on Thursday, voicing their dismay at the shortfall in money from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, academic exclusions, racism, and corruption. Students say they are determined to protest on Monday against the way they are being treated.
“I came here on the last cents of my grandfather’s pension money, so I’m not going back home with nothing. I’m going to join the strike and stay for as long as I can despite these horrible conditions we’re living in now,” said Mbuso Mtshali.
The march has been “inconvenienced” by the displacement of students, but this will not stop them, Mahlangu said.
“We will not be discouraged by this or anything else. There will be a masses of students. We have discouraged students from burning or vandalising any of the institution’s property that is of use to them for academic purposes. If we burn a tyre we are not damaging any property or hurting anyone,” he said.
But Mahlangu warned students would fight back if attacked.
“If the university’s hired hooligans to attack us, we will fight back. I cannot stop students from protecting themselves. We will not be bullied by those bouncers. The purpose of our march and protest action is clear. We want management to take us seriously. They have only heeded 20 percent of our demands, what about the rest?” he asked.
De Ruyter said the university was aware of the protest plans.
“We have a contingency plan in place,” she said.