Pretoria - Students at the University of Pretoria have threatened to disrupt mid-year exams if the impasse regarding the proposed change in language policy and culture was not resolved.
At the same time, AfriForum is offering R20 000 each to one student at four universities - including Pretoria - who vote for teaching to be conducted Afrikaans.
The war against the Afrikaans language and culture at the university, commonly referred to as UP or Tuks, has flared up again in the past few days - barely three months after a similar campaign led to chaos and suspension of classes.
This time around, the students have threatened to hit where it hurts most by ensuring that exams do not go ahead. The exams start in about a week.
The students claim that management resolved to continue promoting Afrikaans at the expense of other languages.
Subsequently, messages started appearing at the Hatfield campus denouncing the use of Afrikaans.
These were spray-painted on walls and corridors during the university’s open day last weekend.
EFF Student Command spokesman Lungile Sonwabo told the Pretoria News the university still had events where white and Afrikaner culture was celebrated and imposed on black students.
Because of that, he said, the #AfrikaansMustFall movement had resumed. “Students are fed-up with the suppression they’ve suffered at the university.
“UP management has shown little or no commitment to transformation; there has been absolutely no progress in the disciplinary charges of black student leaders involved in the protests last time.”
At least 27 student leaders were arrested and charged with public violence and malicious damage of property after the February protests against Afrikaans being used as prime medium of instruction.
At the time, the students ran amok and damaged property during the protracted protests, leading to the suspension of all academic activities for several days.
Student Representative Council leader Thabo Shishanga said the issue was not about replacing Afrikaans with English during lectures. “The issue is around Afrikaans as a culture and the overall system in the university,” he said.
“Students need to understand that this is a process and it will not happen overnight. There are procedures that need to be followed.
“We need to put in qualitative arguments and base them on research in order for the transformation to happen.”
He added that the EFF Student Command and AfriForum had pulled out of the process.
University spokeswoman Anna-Retha Bouwer said they were committed to finding solutions through dialogue and consultation, including issues around the language policy.
Bouwer said they made considerable progress since the protests in February. “Recommendations, including some for the language policy, will be submitted at the next meetings of the senate and council,” she said.
Bouwer said the university was committed to addressing all issues raised by students.
“We urge all stakeholders to engage in dialogue so that we develop policies that truly reflect the values of our community.
“Investigations are ongoing, in keeping with the disciplinary code, for those responsible for spray-painting the buildings,” she said.
Morne Mostert, of AfriForum, meanwhile urged students to support the #AfrikaansSalBly campaign to stand a chance to win the prize money, which would go towards tuition.
Mostert said the campaign targeted the Tuks, Stellenbosch and North West university's Potchefstroom campuses as well as that of the University of the Free State.
“It is everyone’s right to be taught in their mother tongue,” he said.
Department of Higher Education and Training spokesman Fanie Ngoma said Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande intervened at Tuks and advised students and management to resume the language policy dialogue.
Any outstanding issues would have to resolve internally, he added.
“We condemn any disruption of the academic programme, violence and other acts of lawlessness,” Ngoma added.