Student union vows to intensify shutdown protests
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DURBAN - THE South African Union of Students (SAUS) is planning to take the nationwide fees protest to the Union Buildings this week. This was confirmed by the student union’s spokesperson, Thabo Shingange, who said this was a resolution taken on Sunday after the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, failed to pitch at a meeting.
On Monday, parts of the Durban were rocked by violent protests when students burnt tyres and debris on main roads.
The students want universities to scrap debt and for the government to deliver on the promise of free tertiary education. Universities have said the historic student debt bill is estimated to be R14 billion.
Shingange said they felt they were being ignored as student leadership and were not being taken seriously by Nzimande, who had missed the second meeting scheduled by the student leaders at the weekend. He said students would also approach the National Treasury this week.
“Going to the Union Buildings is not a fashion statement. We want the minister to respond positively to our list of demands. The lack of engagement is forcing us to go (to the Union Buildings),” said Shingange.
He said they had tried to sit down with Nzimande, but the minister had not been available for the meetings. “We are being disrespected here. The sector is in a crisis,” he said.
Last week Nzimande and his deputy, Buti Manamela, were criticised in Parliament when they prematurely left an urgent portfolio committee meeting on student fees.
The chairperson of the parliamentary committee on higher education and training, Philly Mapulane, criticised the pair after their actions caused the meeting to be halted before the committee could make its recommendations. The meeting has been rescheduled for today.
Of 26 universities, 18 joined the shutdown across the country last week as some wished to complete the 2020 academic calendar before taking part in the shutdown.
A spokesperson for the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Ishmael Mnisi, said a lot of time had been lost due to Covid-19 and further delays as a result of the protests would have a dire impact on tertiary institutions.
He added that the minister had been engaging with the student leaders to find common ground.