Universities get court interdicts against protesting students

January 17, 2016, 7:31am

Members of the the South African Students Congress demonstrate outside Parliament where the medium-term budget speech is due to be delivered on Wednesday afternoon. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON on Business Day Live  

By Karl Gernetzky, Business Day Live

UNIVERSITY campuses in Gauteng that were hit by student protests this week remained closed to students on Friday, with University of SA (Unisa) having joined the University of Pretoria and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in securing court interdicts against protesting students.

Universities, however, continued online registration amid threats of further protests on Monday, as groups of students and workers continued to press demands for insourcing of services and concessions on fees and access to universities.

Unisa secured the court interdict on Thursday after two days of protests by students and workers.

Wits on Friday secured an interim interdict against unlawful occupation of buildings or blockading of entrances, however the campus remained open to staff and students.

University spokeswoman Shirona Patel said the interdict also prevented intimidation or possession of dangerous weapons, and would empower the institution to bring police onto campus if required.

Prof Mandla Makhanya, principal and vice-chancellor of Unisa, said students should continue to register to return online, while the interdict would help restore normality to the largely distance-learning institution.

The protest and industrial action of the last few days have adversely affected crucial facets of the academic activities of the university. Scores of new and returning students were not able to register this week and "the trashing of our Despatch Directorate disrupted the distribution of tutorial material to registered students. It is imperative that all academic and support functions are restored as a matter of urgency," he said.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) student command said in a statement on Friday they were disappointed the university opted for the interdict as opposed to a requested meeting to discuss issues, and that after consultation staff and workers would intensify their campaign on Monday.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has avoided on-campus disruptions, as it continues its online-only registration, in place since 2012. The institution’s website was briefly offline on Friday, but the institution said later that it had been restored.

The deputy vice-chancellor: strategic services at UJ, Mpho Letlape, said on Friday that online registration would continue until February 3. As at midday, 6,398 students had registered, although a spike in registration was expected at the end of the month.

The University of Pretoria secured its interdict on Tuesday, saying in a statement on Friday it had reopened for staff. Staff were, however, asked to leave early due to threats of violence and ongoing protests, the university said in a statement.

Online registration for first-year students was expected to begin on Monday, the university said.