#UCTShutdown: Tempers boil over

By Siyabonga Kalipa Time of article published Oct 20, 2015

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Cape Town - In a day of high drama at universities across the country on Monday, a UCT professor found himself in hot water after being captured on video swearing at students protesting over a proposed 10.3 percent fees increase – calling them “selfish c***s”.

A UCT student is recovering in hospital after she and a fellow student were hit by a car that drove through one of the barricades that protesters had put up at campus.

And on Monday night at Wits University, cars were stoned, hit with sticks and some even overturned by protesting students.

At Rhodes University, police fired stun grenades at protesters. Classes have been suspended at all three universities.

At Stellenbosch University, members of the Open Stellenbosch movement occupied the administration building, calling for an emergency council meeting into fee increases.

On Monday night, UCT students were served with a court order from the Western Cape High Court after they forced their way into the university’s Bremner building and occupied it. The interdict, which comes into effect on Tuesday, was served against a number of movements at the university – including Rhodes Must Fall, Fees Must Fall, the Left Student Movement, UCT Trans Collective, Sasco UCT, Pasma UCT, Patriarchy Must Fall and others.

Before 6am, students blocked access to all entrances at the university’s lower, middle and upper campuses.

The protest caused congestion along the M3 highway and nearby routes, and traffic had to be diverted. Tempers boiled over as staff arrived for work. Associate Professor Peter Ouwehand left his car to confront protesting students.

He then called them “selfish c***s” before driving away.

UCT spokeswoman Pat Lucas said: “There have been a number of incidents reported as a result of the protest action. UCT is investigating all of them.”

But on Twitter, the university said: “UCT is investigating the incident and will act. We are appalled by this alleged behaviour.”

In another incident, student Simon Rakei was one of two students hit by a car that rammed through the barricade erected by the protesters.

“Anyone can see the barricade. This guy drove past us twice. He then decided to drive over us. I’m lucky I didn’t get hurt. I just have a scratch. The police saw everything but they didn’t do anything about it because he is a white student,” he alleged.

Lucas said: “UCT confirms that a student was injured when he was hit by a car at the entrance to Upper Campus yesterday (on Monday). The driver of the car did not stop.

“The student was taken by ambulance to Groote Schuur Hospital. The police were informed about the incident. UCT will also be investigating.”

About the interdict, Lucas said: “UCT applied for a court interdict today (on Monday) to prevent protesters from interfering with university operations. The university is deeply concerned about the fact that the protesters broke through a locked gate and illegally occupied Bremner building in Middle Campus.

“We hope that this court order convinces the students to vacate the premises. We are willing to discuss any and all matters with the protesters but it is critical that the university returns to full operation. That is our priority now.”

Earlier, while the protesters were mobilising before going to management offices in Bremner building, construction workers at the university were told to join in on the protest or go home.

Outside the building, student Busisiwe Mkhumbuzi addressed hundreds of students.

“We’ve mobilised in solidarity with the workers at UCT and fees must fall. The institution has a history of excluding black people. We tried to engage management in the morning but they failed to treat us with respect,” she said.

“We demand that UCT stops outsourcing, we demand that UCT cancel all operations tomorrow (Tuesday) so everyone can attend the mass meeting we’ll be having. And we demand an emergency council be elected to discuss the fee hike.”

The students told acting vice chancellor Francis Petersen, who was also at the gathering outside Bremner building, he wouldn’t be allowed to leave if he would not respond to their demands. He was asked to sit down with students because “he is going nowhere”.

Petersen said: “UCT has largely solved that problem through cross-subsidising poorer students from the fees paid by wealthier students.

“We are fortunate to attract a majority of students who can afford the fees.

“Thus the government subsidy that would have been allocated to them has instead been allocated to the financial aid that supports poorer students.

“If the fees were lower, there would be significantly less available for financial aid. We also raised a further R200 to R300 million from corporates, alumni and foundations, which together with NSFAS, generates about R500 million annually to ensure that no student is turned away on the basis of affordability.

“UCT offers two types of funding programmes: financial support for those below NSFAS income threshold and GAP funding, which provides financial relief on a sliding scale for families who are above the NSFAS means test, and therefore not eligible for NSFAS support but whose family income is less than R550 000 in 2015 and possibly R570 000 in 2016.

“The largest group of students is in the lowest bracket and will receive financial aid of up to R100 000 while only paying about R1 250. “This covers tuition and accommodation, food and books.”

Petersen acknowledged that the protest was peaceful but said it was unlawful to prevent others from entering the university.

Mzwandile Mabaso, a cleaner at UCT, said: “We are fighting outsourcing as the university can afford to employ people and not use these companies. We also work under poor conditions and there is a lot of racism here.”


Andrea Alexandra, a student who wasn’t part of the protest, said: “The march is very necessary in order for us to see change on campus. In society, we’re expected to get jobs and for that to happen one needs an education. And education is expensive.”

But some students were unhappy about the disruption of their lectures.

Biata Alvies said: “We are getting close to exams and this protest is not helping. I don’t know if this is a logical way of addressing issues, it’s so unnecessary.”

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