Student protest tension high

    Tensions over fees must fall protests ran high in Grahamstown yesterday, when police ordered students to clear a public road or run the risk of being dispersed with a dye-shooting water cannon.

    Despite giving students five minutes to disperse, police later left, threatening they would be back if the students did not adhere.

    CRYING OUT: Rhodes University students march through Grahamstown, calling for free education Picture: DAVID MACGREGOR
    CRYING OUT: Rhodes University students march through Grahamstown, calling for free education Picture: DAVID MACGREGOR

    Police Colonel Monray Nel told student leaders the police had “been playing around since Sunday” with protesters and were now adopting a “no more Mr Nice Guy” stance to campus disruptions that prevented traffic using state roads.

    The wide divisions over calls for free university education could not have been more apparent when hundreds of students and staff, including vice chancellor Sizwe Mabizela, senior management and the SRC, were briefly stopped on High Street from delivering a memorandum to Makana municipal officials by a slightly smaller group that has called for a total university shutdown until the issue is resolved nationally. Demands by students and staff aligned to the University Currently Known As Rhodes (UCKAR) movement, who have been disrupting lectures and administrative work on campus, include: Free quality education for poor and middle-class students – including those on government-funded study loans, and higher management university staff to pay half their salaries to fund poor and deserving students.

    They proposed a transparent remuneration committee be formed to review upper management salary packages in consultation with students and other stakeholders.

    Staff who owned houses rented as student digs should also be obliged to contribute a portion to social responsibility efforts, to help subsidise free education for poor students, the memorandum said.

    Management was ordered to meet staff who owned digs and report back to students by Monday.

    It was also told to identify university-approved accommodation in the city to prevent students paying exorbitant rental, in conjunction with the local business forum.

    Calls were also made to erase historical and present debt, institute free supplementary exams, abolish policies that exclude students from studying further due to financial reasons and stop withholding exam results of people unable to pay.

    The university was also ordered not to use a high court interdict against protesting students and given until Monday to respond.

    A petition handed over to acting Makana municipal manager Mandisi Planga by SRC members, staff and students to be delivered to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande urged him to “hear the cries” of Rhodes and SA students. — davidm@dispatch.co.za

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