Students stand defiant

Students on the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal say they are unlikely to return to class until at least October 14, when the UKZN Council meets to deliberate on fees for 2017.

Leaders of the hundreds of students who marched to the provincial legislature yesterday to call for free education, have said that students will not return to lectures until their demand is met.

This would mean a further suspension of the academic programme for three weeks, following the university’s early closure for the September break because of protests related to fees.

The campus has been a hotbed of unrest over annual fee increases, with weeks of protest action forcing the suspension of the academic programme on several occasions.

The students have also threatened to occupy the provincial legislature if the MPLs do not respond to their demands.

Addressing students at the legislature, #FeesMustFall activist and EFF Student Command leader Bonginkosi Khanyile said this was the last time that the students would deliver a memorandum.

“Last year we handed over a memorandum, and the year before last we handed over a memorandum.

“This is the last time we are handing over a memorandum. The next time we come here, we are going to occupy the legislature and pass free education as law. This government of the ANC, EFF and DA is failing us.”

Khanyile accused Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande of “dividing” students by exempting the so-called “missing middle” and those who qualify for National Student Financial Aid Scheme funding from the 2017 fee increases.

“He claims to be a communist, but there is nothing communist about what he said. He is dividing the students,” he said.

Xola Mehlomakhulu, another #FeesMustFall activist from the EFF Students Command, said the students would not return to lectures unless “something changes”.

“As we give them this letter, we are not pleading with them but we demand that they give us the date and time of implementation. Failure to do so will result in us continuing to do what we do best.”

Although UKZN students only took to Pietermaritzburg’s streets at around 10.30 am on Tuesday, #FeesMustFall leaders were out much earlier in the morning to rally students to their cause.

Just before 8 am, a loud hailer echoed through residences near the Petrie exam venue as one student woke up others to join in the protest.

In half-an-hour, a group of about 60 students had gathered, soon dissolving into smaller groups and moving to different parts of the campus.

Two students allegedly entered the DLST building and disrupted morning lectures, while others moved to the Commerce block on Golf Road, rallying students together. It is believed the students disrupted lectures on the Commerce, Law and Main campuses, forcing students out of classes before congregating on Golf Road.

UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka confirmed that lectures had been disrupted at the Pietermaritzburg campus, but said there were no reports of disruptions on the Westville, Howard College, Edgewood, and Medical School campuses in Durban. “The university’s Risk Management Services and Public Order Policing are continuing to monitor all campuses, and every effort is being made to ensure that the academic programme proceeds as scheduled with no interruptions,” he said.

The students also held a vigil on Monday night, where they lit candles and burned incense.