Students escalate no-fees campaign

January 14, 2016, 4:48am

DISCONTENT: University of Johannesburg student leader Cathrine Seabe and Lindokuhle Xulu of the University of the Witwatersrand address the media outside UJ’s Kingsway Campus. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA  on Business Day Live

By Karl Gernetzky, Business Day Live

STUDENT leaders continue to pile the pressure on Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and have threatened to disrupt Thursday’s scheduled meeting with him as they intensify their campaign against university fees.

Mr Nzimande is due to meet student representative council (SRC) leaders from universities around the country in Johannesburg on Thursday. However, the minister will not meet with loose student groupings operating outside recognised structures.

Department spokesman Khaye Nkwanyana said SRCs were elected and blamed the lack of recognition of the #FeesMustFall movements by universities as the reason for the snub.

"If they are recognised by universities, and are in compliance with their statutes, then the minister will happily meet with them," said Mr Nkwanyana.

Lindokuhle Xulu, a student leader at the University of Johannesburg who is not part of its SRC, on Wednesday rejected the meeting with Mr Nzimande and appealed for teachers to release pupils including those in primary school, so they could join the protests.

Busisiwe Seabe, a student leader at the University of the Witwatersrand, cautioned against divisions between the SRC and students spearheading the no-fees campaign.

The no-fees student leaders, who are not part of any university structure, said they were not seeking anarchy, but were willing to push for their demands.

They are adamant that registration should not proceed at either university until their demands are met and have asked that police and security personnel be removed from campuses. They have also appealed for all matriculants who obtained bachelor passes to go to their nearest university to demand free education.

Ms Seabe said: "The students have been calling for free education since we were promised it 20 years ago.

"We are not calling for the impossible, we are calling for what we were promised.

"We don’t want it in three years’ time, we don’t want the government sitting in commissions like they have been doing (for the past 20 years)."

Meanwhile, the University of Pretoria remained shut on Wednesday, enforcing an interdict it got on Tuesday against protesting students. It has been conducting online registrations and insists that it obtained the interdict to prevent those posing as staff and students from accessing its campus

The Tshwane University of Technology reported on Wednesday a go-slow by security staff who want outsourcing to be scrapped.

Meanwhile, Wits denied student allegations that security guards’ use of force was unnecessary and unprovoked. The university said it had reviewed footage of what happened between students and security guards.

"A review of the footage will show that there is nothing there to support these claims. In fact, the footage shows some protesters threatening others. Four security personnel were injured during scuffles."

Wits spokeswoman Shirona Patel said face-to-face registration proceeded on Wednesday without much disruption, barring a minor protest, and would continue today.

With Farren Collins