Learning will not resume at the University of Pretoria (UP) until academic fees are scrapped, prominent student activist Vusi Mahlangu vowed on Monday.
“The university had the intention of opening campus today. We are going to shut down everything. The students are resolute and they have now been joined by workers. We are giving the university the chance to voluntarily shut down now in line with the national call for free education,” said the #FeesMustFall activist.
Mahlangu said the students would disrupt classes and the meetings scheduled to happen inside campus on Monday.
“Currently we’re disrupting all kinds of that divide and rule tactics by the university. There are no classes taking places today and we’re going to ensure that there are no classes. We’re calling on Professor Cheryl De la Rey [vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Pretoria] to come and march with us,” said Mahlangu.
“We’re calling on all these vice-chancellors to stop the rhetoric of saying they support free education only verbally. They must close campuses and join us in the marches. We don’t want their spiritual support.”
Mahlangu said students held a night vigil at the university entrance in Hatfield, demanding free education.
“The night vigil was aimed at galvanising the support of the students. We had over a thousand students here overnight. We had students from other institutions like the TUT [Tshwane University of Technology], Unisa [University of South Africa] and the Sefako Makgatho University supporting the vigil,” said Mahlangu.
On Monday morning, several police officers and university security officials in riot gear were at the university entrance. When the gates were closed after 9am, several students started climbing above the security checkpoint to make their way onto the campus.
Mahlangu said the heightened security was not a deterrent to the protesters.
“These police officers are human beings. They themselves are in that so-called missing middle. They support the call for free education. We have been engaging them. We are trying to win them over. But we must also state that we cannot be intimidated. Regarding these other ones [campus security], the hooligans, we’re going to beat them up,” he said.
UP spokeswoman Anna-Retha Bouwer said the institution’s academic programmes remain suspended.
“Already today, we have cancelled a meeting which had been scheduled because of the presence of protesters on campus,” she said.
The university was denying media access to the campus.