Classes suspended at Sol Plaatjie

Kimberley - Classes at the Sol Plaatje University have been suspended while the Student Representative Council elections have also been called off.

This comes after a small band of students caused continuous disruptions on campus this week.

Rendani Nematswerani, National Deputy Secretary General EFF Student Command with Professor Yunus Ballim at the SPU main campus. Picture: Soraya Crowie. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

While the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections were scheduled to take place on Wednesday afternoon, grievances over the proposed national fee increase for 2017, have seen members of the EFF Student Command (EFFSC) protesting on campus.

A general council meeting was called on Wednesday, with the elections initially delayed for an hour so that the meeting could take place.

However, the meeting erupted into chaos when members of the EFFSC, believed to have been incited by outside influences who are not SPU students, stormed into the venue and threatened the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Yunus Ballim, accusing him of not having the students’ interests at heart.

More threats and violence ensued when EFF members demanded that DFA journalists be removed from campus, hurling racial slurs at them and attempting to kick them and hit them with bicycle chains.

On Thursday, the chairman of the SPU SRC, Tiro Cwaile, confirmed that the elections had not taken place. He added that, pending the outcome of a council meeting “ afternoon, students could go to the polls by Monday.

“At this stage, all classes have been suspended indefinitely while the elections have also been called off,” Cwaile said.

“There will be a council meeting today where the new election date is likely to be determined.

He added that the fee increase issue would also be addressed.

“The issues surrounding the calls for a zero percent increase in fees will also be tabled at the meeting and depending on what is decided, we could well have the elections on Monday.”

ANC provincial secretary Zamani Saul said on Thursday that the ruling party in the Northern Cape supported calls for free higher education for deserving students, but added that those coming from households with a combined income of more than R600 000 should be expected to contribute towards the costs.

Meanwhile, Ballim sent a letter of apology to the DFA on Thursday, condemning the ill-treatment of members of the media on campus and adding that the perpetrators would be dealt with.

“SPU were most disturbed to read the articles in the DFA which described a reporter and photographer being ill-treated by our students,” he said.

“We take no pleasure from this incident and it is not reflective of the positive and critically engaged relationship that we have enjoyed with the Northern Cape media in general and the DFA in particular.”

Ballim added that while issues around the SRC elections and tuition fees had heightened tensions on campus, this was not a reason for anyone to be manhandled.

“This is not the institutional culture we wish to establish at our university. The incident was part of a series of breaches of our University Code of Conduct and we intend to pursue disciplinary action against students who can be identified as having been involved in these actions.”

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