Johannesburg – The Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) on Friday heaped praise on University of Cape Town students and said it hoped their determination and willingness would rub off on the rest of the country in a bid to speed up transformation at universities.
This, after a group of UCT students called on university management to prioritise residence allocation through a number of demonstrations which started on Monday.
The protesting students claim the university marginalises black South African students when allocating residences, while accommodating white international students and have vowed to continue protesting until their grievances are met.
Several of the protests at the university this week turned violent and resulted in a number of arrests and an interdict obtained against student leaders.
The HETN said their ongoing struggle for the eradication of racism and all barriers to higher education for black students was a notable cause for celebration.
Director and national spokesperson, Hendrick Makaneta, sent a message of hope to student leaders who have claimed of being harassed and persecuted by campus security.
“This is a noble course and they would go down in history as brave young men and women who led from the front and refused to cave into pressure from those who use violence to perpetuate the status quo,” said Makaneta.
He called upon the UCT students to unite more than ever and to escalate their commendable battle to rid the university – “one of the last bastions of racism” – of all elements and systems used to block black students and academics from realising their full potential.
However, HETN appealed to students to refrain from voicing their genuine concerns through violent means because doing so “would be to play into the hands of the enemy”.
HETN has maintained that UCT remains one of South Africa’s most untransformed universities where the management was blinded by apartheid thinking.
The network warned UCT authorities to refrain from acts of intimidation against the students and instead address their demands as soon as possible.
“We call for the amendment of the Higher Education statutes to hand government the powers to run our universities in line with the principles of public accountability and respect for academic freedom,” said Makaneta.
The HETN said it would be making written submissions to the parliament’s portfolio committee on Higher Education to strengthen all processes towards the Amendment bill on higher education.