PICS: MUT students block road, stone police
DURBAN - MORE than 500 frustrated students from Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) embarked on a violent protest yesterday, demanding that the institution resolve its registration issues.
The students blockaded both sides of Mangosuthu Highway and the university’s main entrance with refrigerators and burning tyres.
According to KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala, the protesters also threw stones at police officers who were at the scene.
Gwala confirmed that a 24-year-old suspect was arrested for public violence.
The university announced on Tuesday that it would be closing due to the ongoing workers’ strike that started last week.
The Student Representative Council (SRC), led by the EFF Student Command, said they believed the university’s management was not addressing many issues.
SRC president Mthokozisi Gumede said that they, together with staff representatives, held a meeting with management on Wednesday but it was not fruitful.
Gumede said the university issued a communiqué this week stating classes would commence on Monday, but only 2 000 students had successfully registered.
He said more than 13 000 students still had to be registered. He said some had issues due to historical debt, while others had experienced problems with the university’s online system.
The student leadership demanded that the university allow students previously funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to register.
“The university says the classes are starting on Monday. Our question is, who is going to attend those classes as students are not registered? Who is going to teach as the staff are on strike? Who is going to register and give accommodation to students in these few days we have?” Gumede said.
He said thousands of students were unable to access their academic records, qualifications and completion letters due to the debt they owed to the university.
“When we try to raise our issues through relevant channels, they ignore us, and once we protest, they shoot at us. What should we do? When the police shot at us, the only way we could protect ourselves was to throw stones and tyres,” he said.
Meanwhile, university staff downed tools last Monday after salary increase negotiations allegedly failed.
The university said they were still negotiating with unions on staff salary increases.
According to the university, the unions had demanded an 8% increase while the university had offered 3.3%.
The university’s acting deputy vice-chancellor, Manyani Makuwa, described the ongoing protest as unnecessary.
He said university management was committed to working with both aggrieved staff and students to find solutions.
He said issues that had been raised had been forwarded to the council.
“Students also demanded laptops for online learning. However, as we all know, the laptops have not yet been released by NSFAS, and we have no control over that.
“Students who are not funded by NSFAS will be given laptops after they sign the contract on how they will pay for that in future,” he said.
He said that the historical debt issue remained a challenge, and it was not possible to continue increasing that debt.
Meanwhile, 15 prospective Durban University of Technology (DUT) students, and one registered student, appeared at the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
The students were arrested on Wednesday after a violent protest outside the Steve Biko and Ritson campuses, which resulted in a university building and vehicles being damaged.
The students, who were released on R500 bail each on Wednesday night, made a brief appearance and the matter was postponed to June 4 for further investigation.
The students are facing charges of public violence, illegal gathering as well as malicious damage to property.
Three of those arrested are minors, one is registered at DUT, while the others were “walk-ins” who came to the institution to register.