‘Stand down, stop protests’

CityPress - - News - S’THEM­BILE CELE sthem­bile.cele@city­press.co.za

While #FeesMustFall protests are set to con­tinue this week, the real bat­tle for many stu­dent lead­ers is tak­ing place be­hind closed doors, where in­struc­tions from their po­lit­i­cal mas­ters are clear: stand down and stop the protests.

The na­tional #FeesMustFall move­ments have been in talks over the week­end to dis­cuss the way for­ward for this week, when more stu­dents re­turn to cam­puses and join the protest.

City Press has learnt that a num­ber of stu­dent lead­ers pri­vately met se­nior Pro­gres­sive Youth Al­liance (PYA) lead­ers, who or­dered them to shut down any protests. The PYA con­sists of the SA Stu­dents Congress (Sasco), the ANC Youth League (AN­CYL) and the Young Com­mu­nists League.

AN­CYL pres­i­dent Collen Maine – who on Thurs­day an­nounced that fees had fallen and stu­dents should get back to class – told City Press that there was no need for stu­dents to con­tinue protest­ing and that those call­ing them­selves #FeesMustFall were “coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ary”.

“My child won’t qual­ify for Ns­fas (Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme). If you don’t qual­ify, it means you can af­ford. Free is for the poor. It is like so­cial grants. Not ev­ery­one qual­i­fies,” he said.

Newly elected Sasco pres­i­dent Thabo Moloja said they were plan­ning a “back-toschool” cam­paign fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment’s R6.9 bil­lion com­mit­ment to in­crease fund­ing and debt clear­ance loans to Ns­fas stu­dents.

But SRC lead­ers have re­mained de­fi­ant and were re­fus­ing to stop the protests, as their po­lit­i­cal mas­ters have or­dered.

Lwazi Pakade, SRC leader at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, said: “The lead­er­ship of the PYA should be very em­bar­rassed by what they said, es­pe­cially with re­gards to fees hav­ing fallen. Many stu­dents, es­pe­cially those who are part of the so-called miss­ing mid­dle, will still not be able to reg­is­ter due to the ex­pected up­front fees from dif­fer­ent uni­ver­si­ties.

“We will not take di­rec­tives from non­con­sult­ing dic­ta­tors in the PYA. We will fol­low the man­date of the stu­dents that we’re serv­ing in our re­spec­tive uni­ver­si­ties.”

Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg SRC leader Man­gal­iso Mkonta said: “I think it’s an illinformed po­si­tion of the PYA to call for an end to the #FeesMustFall protests. The PYA is ex­pected to be at all times in a po­si­tion

to rep­re­sent the youth of this coun­try and not gov­ern­ment.” Pakade was one of the stu­dent lead­ers who walked out of a meet­ing with Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande on Thurs­day. The meet­ing with Nz­i­mande and SRC lead­ers from 26 uni­ver­si­ties was sup­posed to find am­i­ca­ble so­lu­tions to is­sues on cam­puses na­tion­wide, but de­te­ri­o­rated when half the group staged a walk­out.

The meet­ing took place dur­ing the PYA press con­fer­ence at which Maine and oth­ers called for the protests to end. Six SRC lead­ers, from the uni­ver­si­ties of Wit­wa­ter­srand, Stel­len­bosch, Pre­to­ria, Western Cape, Jo­han­nes­burg and Fort Hare, told City Press they were not aware the press con­fer­ence was tak­ing place.

But the woes for stu­dent lead­ers do not end with pres­sure from the ANC to bow out. Ten­sions flared this week be­tween stu­dents who are part of the #FeesMustFall move­ments and their elected SRCs. The for­mer group said SRCs were not man­dated to speak on their be­half be­cause they did not rep­re­sent their views.

In the Western Cape, #RhodesMustFall and Univer­sity of Western Cape #FeesMustFall groups said they had not man­dated their SRCs to meet Nz­i­mande.

On Mon­day, stu­dents from Wits #FeesMustFall and the SRC brought reg­is­tra­tion to a stand­still with calls for free reg­is­tra­tion, the clear­ance of his­tor­i­cal debt and free ed­u­ca­tion, among other de­mands.

SRC pres­i­dent Nom­pen­dulo Mkatshwa high­lighted the plight of stu­dents from the “miss­ing mid­dle” – work­ing class stu­dents “too rich” to qual­ify for Ns­fas, but who can­not af­ford to pay fees – one of their largest wor­ries.

Sasco’s Moloja was not sym­pa­thetic to these con­cerns, say­ing the so-called miss­ing mid­dle stu­dents were the prob­lem of uni­ver­si­ties, whose vice-chan­cel­lors had com­mit­ted to free reg­is­tra­tion for stu­dents who could not af­ford it.

On Fri­day, Wits Univer­sity ob­tained an in­terim or­der from the South Gaut­eng High Court and beefed up se­cu­rity af­ter “se­ri­ous threats made to the uni­ver­sity and some staff”, it said in a state­ment.

The or­der pre­vents pro­test­ers from “un­law­fully oc­cu­py­ing” uni­ver­sity build­ings, dis­rupt­ing reg­is­tra­tion and lec­tures, pre­vent­ing any­one from en­ter­ing the in­sti­tu­tion, dam­ag­ing prop­erty, ha­rass­ment or car­ry­ing weapons.

In the state­ment, the uni­ver­sity said they could bring po­lice on to cam­pus if they needed to, which was some­thing the uni­ver­sity has re­sisted un­til now.

Ear­lier this week, Wits Univer­sity asked that stu­dents who could not af­ford to reg­is­ter, work out a pay­ment plan with the uni­ver­sity and pay the fee of up to R9 500 by March. But stu­dents have said they still would not be able to af­ford that.


STILL FIGHT­ING Stu­dents of the #FeesMustFall move­ment at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg



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