Calm as protest begins to wane

Student desire to make mayhem in East London seemed to be on the wane yesterday as a small group of activists battled to rouse support.

HOT SEATS OF LEARNING: Students from UFH main campus sitting under trees and not protesting after a hectic week of demonstrations against university fee increases  Picutre: SIBONGILE NGALWA
HOT SEATS OF LEARNING: Students from UFH main campus sitting under trees and not protesting after a hectic week of demonstrations against university fee increases Picutre: SIBONGILE NGALWA

About 20 students moved from residence to residence, which appeared to be filled with slumbering students, and called them to the street.

Even student leaders admitted they were exhausted by a week of protest and some said they just wanted management and SRC leaders to cut a deal to return to normality and write exams.

In Alice at the main campus of the University of Fort Hare, university spokeswoman Zintle Filtane said a “really good meeting” with SRC representatives from East London and Alice campuses resolved that exams would go ahead as scheduled from Monday.

“All student grievances have been addressed and it is only a question of ironing out some issues this week,” she said.

“Some of the grievances management had not been aware of and two committees have been set up to deal with residence and funding problems.”

Referring to students with outstanding debt, she said it was resolved that students would write exams, get their results and those who were due to would be allowed to re-register next year. “The debt issues will be dealt with at national level by the committee that was set up by the department of higher education.”

Student action also lost traction with the public with Buffalo City Metro mayor Alfred Mtsi saying that although students had a valid cause their violent and destructive protests were starting to offend the public.

Mtsi, speaking at the launch of BCM’s festive season safety plan yesterday, said the metro understood that students had a right to protest saying: “These are our children and they have genuine reasons to fight [for their education] but it should not be fought in a way which destroys other people’s property and offends and insults people. We are very concerned.

“There has been a lot of damage in the last few days and I appeal to students to refrain from violent protest.”

A small group of protesting Walter Sisulu University students in East London again took to the streets yesterday, forcing those studying or sleeping to join in the protest action in a show of solidarity.

At 3pm, the group moved from one Southernwood residence to another. By 5pm the group had snowballed to 300.

However, the students were peaceful.

They marched to the Cambridge Street WSU campus where leaders of the students representative council were locked in a meeting with university management. They demanded free university education and that student debt be settled.

In Alice yesterday, scores of students from the University of Fort Hare packed their bags and went home.

It was calm on campus, in stark contrast to Monday when students vandalised and looted a bookstore.

University management, led by vice-chancellor Dr Vuyo Tom, met SRC members to strategise a way forward.

Student Nonkazimlo Jibiliza, who said she was due to start exams on November 6, was among those who left yesterday.

She said she would return to campus on Sunday. “I didn’t take part in the protest but the things that we are fighting for are valid grievances. But I’m tired of this now and I’m going home to my child.”

Groups of students were seen chanting around the campus and were later joined by equal education employees who brought them refreshments.

SRC president Busisiwe Mashiqa said the students decided not to march yesterday as they were tired from previous days. “We are now waiting for the East London SRC members in order to have a meeting with the management. We are not going back to classes yet. The meeting will determine our next steps.”

AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, in a statement yesterday, said he supported the #FeesMustFall campaign.

“The demand for free education is consistent with the objectives for which all kings of this kingdom, from Ngangelizwe, Dalindyebo, Sabatha [my late father] and I, the incumbent, joined the liberation struggle.

“I have noted with pain the brutal response of the government to the peaceful and legitimate protest launched by the students against commercialisation of education. The physical abuse by police of unarmed students is a clear abuse of power.”

The king urged all AbaThembu and “other people of South Africa to join the call for free education and the immediate release and withdrawal of cases against students”.

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