UWC students go on rampage
Cape Town - As mayhem broke out at the University of the Western Cape late on Friday, students of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology were celebrating the announcement of free registration for all students next year.
At UWC, students ransacked the office of their vice-chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius and were still marching and chanting at publication time on Friday night.
Several university security guards were injured, one hospitalised, UWC said last night.
Trouble broke out in the mid-afternoon on Friday when students couldn’t meet Pretorius, but later Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the university’s chancellor, addressed students, mediating and accepting a memorandum.
The students have given the university until 1pm on Saturday to respond.
The protesters, some of whom described themselves as “guerrillas”, have named themselves #UWCFeesWillFall.
The group numbered about 200 on Friday.
The damage at the campus included smashed windows and overturned flower pots.
Student leader Lindokuhle Mandyoli said: “We wanted to mobilise mass action. We went res to res and were blocked by the black ants (security guards).”
They forced their way into Pretorius’s office building after the meeting failed to take place at 1pm. Police arrived at about 2pm.
Another protesting student, Khulah Nyobole, said their demands included free registration next year, no financial exclusion, the clearing of financial debt and the removal of the “Berlin Wall” fence between the university and the Kovacs residence.
Meanwhile, Makgoba attempted to mediate, telling the students that “as a dad and a man” he understood their pain.
Pretorius, in a statement released on Friday, said several UWC security staff were injured, “one so badly that he required hospitalisation”. He also rejected the students’ claim that their protest was a result of the rector not being available to them.
“The evidence is there that they pretended to want to have a dialogue, but when the opportunity was presented to them, they went on a rampage.
“We have deployed a team of counsellors to assist our students in the residences, especially the first years, to help them deal with the trauma they have experienced,” Pretorius said.
Meanwhile, at CPUT on Friday a “marathon meeting” between management and staff, which began on Thursday evening, ended with the announcement of free registration for all students in 2016.
The announcement is included in a two-page resolution signed by university and student leaders.
In a letter to staff and students, CPUT vice-chancellor Dr Prins Nevhutalu said the university, with its 30 000 students, would reopen on Monday.
Nevhutalu also confirmed tuition fees would not increase next year.
Residence fees would decrease. No decision has been made on when rescheduled exams would take place.
The university’s senate would likely make this decision after a meeting on Monday.
Sibusiso Thwala, president of the students representative council, called the resolution a “victory for students and the institution”.
Thwala said the resolution stated that the debt of poor students registered at the university would be cleared.
This would not apply to students with bursaries. The details still had to be thrashed out.
In his letter, Nevhutalu wrote that the university was considering “clearing some of the debt which cannot be collected from deserving and indigent students”.
He hoped the decision to waive registration fees, keep fee increases 0 percent and clear debt would “not have a negative impact on the financial sustainability of the institution”.
“We are in discussion with the Department of Higher Education and Training to see how they are going to assist us to meet our financial obligations for 2016.”
According to the resolution, a committee composed of management, unions and student representatives would investigate whether it was feasible to end outsourcing of labour at the university, which protesting students have called exploitative.
Students involved in protests would also be granted a one-off amnesty.
This action would not set any precedent, however.
Students and staff “condemned the violent nature of the protest with “the contempt it deserves”.
Reaction on social media, which many students have used to follow the closure of the university, was largely positive.
“Now we can go back to classes, this is exactly what we were striking for,” wrote student Ta’Sbu M’Afrika Mtfombeni on the university’s student affairs Facebook page.
Other were more cautious: “Do not get too excited, we might hear another story on Monday,” wrote Siya Sikho Mazwembe, whose social media profile says he is a property valuation student.
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