UCT Shutdown Commences

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By Tamutswa Mahari and Michaela Pillay

Students gathering in Jameson (Marikana) Hall for the mass meeting.Photo: Thapelo Masebe

On Tuesday 24 October, students gathered for a mass meeting in Jameson Hall during Meridian. This meeting was called by the interim SRC and led by members, Sihle Lonzi and Masixole Malandu. The main point of order was to address the proposed fees increment of 8-10% discussed during prior meetings with UCT Management. The proposed fee increase, as explained by UCT management, is planned to alleviate the pressure of funding on UCT’s expenses considering the expected economic climate within the country in 2018.

Whilst the SRC stated that they were still in negotiations with management, they had compiled a list of six demands that they presented at the meeting. The list comprised the following demands:

  • 0% fee increment at the University of Cape Town to be pronounced by an emergency Council Sitting
  • The immediate release of the Fees Commission Report
  • An emergency Institutional Commission of Inquiry into all the deaths of students over the past 2-5 years that relate to suicide.
  • A substantial Financial Report on expenditure on para-military services on the campus over the past two years.
  • Clearance of Historical Debt for the year of 2017 and no financial barriers to registration for the year 2018.
  • A draft Framework that will address the residence and housing intake for the year 2018 for students who do not get residence offers, particularly those in first year and those who have been denied residence for next year.

The SRC members also expressed their frustration with UCT management, as well as the Ministry of Education, for withholding the budget for the year to come. They viewed this as a preventative strategy to allow students to voice their concerns of the new budget prior to the examination period.

In the process of the meeting, SAPS vehicles were spotted by the Sports Center. UCT Management emphasized that they did not call or alert the police to be stationed on campus. The SRC members leading the meeting said they were not intimidated by the presence of the police. The audience was then encouraged to join the student leaders in a “tour” of campus and subsequent handing over of these demands to UCT management after the mass meeting.

Students walking down Jameson Steps after the mass meeting. Photo: Thapelo Masebe

Following the mass meeting, protesting students attempted to interrupt afternoon lectures and tutorials. Various buildings were shut down, including the New Lecture Theatre, Neville Alexander, and the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library. The Chancellor Oppenheimer Library was re-opened within an hour.

 

The attempted shutdown was followed by the gathering of students outside of Kramer at 4pm where the student leaders addressed Vice Chancellor Dr Max Price directly. Seipati Tshabalala read the 6 demands to him and called on Dr Price to assist in the demilitarization of CPUT. “We call on Dr Price to end police brutality on CPUT campus.”

An emergency meeting was called after the gathering in the ExAir residence on Lower Campus. The Management representative was DVC of transformation, Professor Ferris. The meeting focused on issues raised before, such as the demanding of an explanation as to how the University is funded. Professor Ferris highlighted that the alumni have a certain amount of power (money) that allows them to say: “we don’t like the way things are” and can withdraw any donations and funding. The student protesters asked management to allow the UCT community the platform to voice the concerns. SRC member, Masixole Mlandu stated that, “If NPA was able to forgive white people for apartheid transgression then NPA can withdraw the charges”.

On Thursday 25th of October, student protesters barricaded the Lower Campus road, obstructing the Jammie routes, causing them to change routes. The students proceeded to move through residence dining halls, encouraging kitchen staff to join them. The protesting students and staff then made their way down to Middle Campus where they attempted to occupy Kramer before they moved to Upper Campus. The group of student protesters occupied buildings such as Steve Biko, Chemical Engineering Building and AC Jordan in which they set off fire extinguishers. The Chancellor Oppenheimer Library was eventually closed due to the occupations and students were evacuated from the building. The protesting students proceeded to interrupt postgraduate PGDA examinations in the Sports Center using fire extinguishers as they did in other buildings.

students walking out of a building where protesting students sprayed a fire extinguisher Photo: Josh Beretta
students walking out of a building where protesting students sprayed a fire extinguisher Photo: Josh Beretta

Considering the disruptions, UCT management made the decision to secure private security to be stationed in high risk buildings. Management advised all students and staff to allow the private security to do their work as this was not a decision taken lightly.

The protesting students moved again to Middle and Lower Campus at which point the decision was made to march to parliament in collaboration with the CPUT student body. The students marched on into town where they continued their demonstration at which point two students, one of whom was UCT student Loyiso Juqu were arrested by SAPS. Following the demonstration in town, a plenary was held at 8pm on Graca Lawns and The SRC released an email addressing the arrests.

 

 

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