‘Food making us sick’

Fuming uMgungundlovu TVET students from the Plessislaer campus in Imbali on Tuesday blockaded the entrance to their campus with burning tyres during protest action against their hostel kitchen for giving them food they believe causes diarrhoea.

The students said since the beginning of the year they have complained to the college about how they constantly fell ill after eating food from the campus kitchen.

Bongisipho Dlamini, a Students’ Representative Council (SRC) member, told The Witness that on Monday they had a meeting with the college management and the manager of the hostel kitchen.

“We submitted reports of previous complaints about the kitchen, reports of previous meetings with the kitchen management and letters from the clinic confirming that the diarrhoea was due to the food we had eaten but the college management said there was not enough evidence to prove that it was undoubtedly the food from the kitchen that made us all sick.”

Dlamini said one of the senior officials from the college said the matter was not urgent as there had been no major outbreak as yet.

“He said they would take it seriously when at least one student collapses at the main gate and an ambulance is called to fetch them,” he said.

The students alleged that the kitchen staff, who provide them with breakfast and supper, were rude and that the food was not fresh.

They said they have found maggots in their sausages, hairs in their rice and phuthu, what looks like black blood clots in their meat and complained that sometimes the food tastes sour.

Sthoko Langa, also a member of the SRC, said the kitchen provided for at least 180 students residing at the college’s hostel. “The majority of students, me included, still eat the food because we have no other alternatives. As I speak to you now my stomach is sore.”

A student who is six months pregnant, who asked not to be named, said she also had no other option but to eat the food. “I was at the clinic recently after a bad case of diarrhoea and stomach cramps. They gave me white tablets and advised me to stay away from the kitchen food, but if I do that I’ll starve,” she said.

Langa said they would continue with their protest action until the college’s management was willing to change the service provider responsible for the cooking.

Ntombi Ntshangase, principal of uMgungundlovu TVET College, said she was aware of the complaints about the kitchen and yesterday’s protest.

“I thought the matter had been resolved in yesterday’s [Monday] meeting but it’s clear that the students still have unresolved issues.

“We will arrange another meeting with the SRC and hopefully will be able to address this,” she said.

Ntshangase rubbished the allegations that an official had said there must be an outbreak before the matter was taken seriously. “No adult and parent in their right mind would say that, I just don’t believe it,” she said