Msindisi Fengu, Aphiwe Deklerk and Zine George
ABOUT 2000 students and staff at Walter Sisulu University took to the streets yesterday as pressure mounted on President Jacob Zuma to intervene in the six-week strike that has crippled teaching at the institution.
The protesters marched on the Mnquma Local Municipality offices in Butterworth to hand over two memorandums – one from staff and another from students – to mayor Mntuwoxolo Ganjana.
The staff memo called for the province to take over WSU and for administrator Professor Lourens van Staden’s appointment to be reviewed.
Students want Ganjana to intervene and ensure classes start again. They also want the municipality to make sure they are not kicked out of residences.
There is increasing pressure on Zuma and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to intervene in the crisis.
The SA Students’ Congress has questioned Zuma’s inaction while UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said Zuma needed to set up a task team to look into the issue.
“We cannot sit by idly while this protracted strike jeopardises our children’s future,” he said.
Eastern Cape ANC secretary Oscar Mabuyane said he would table an item on WSU on behalf of the ANC provincial executive committee during a meeting of the national executive that started yesterday.
“We don’t want the ANC to be seen to be interfering with governance, but we are concerned about how the ministry has kind of washed its hands of the WSU crisis,” Mabuyane said.
The Department of Higher Education said Van Staden was acting on its instructions.
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The university has asked students to leave the residences until a solution has been found, but Institutional Student Representative Council deputy president Lusanda Tuta said the students were not going anywhere.
Tuta said students had asked the SA Human Rights Commission to intervene.
“Van Staden cannot just evict students without any form of notification,” he said.
Accepting the memorandums, Ganjana said students could remain until tomorrow.
WSU spokeswoman Angela Church said: “The extension is to allow them to make preparations to vacate residences.”
Church said fewer than 5000 of WSU’s 21000 students were accommodated in residences.
She said student safety was the motivating factor.
Butterworth police spokesman Captain Jackson Manatha said 16 students had been charged with public violence and malicious damage to property after a truck driver was attacked on the N2 near Ibika campus around 4am yesterday.
Students blockaded the road with burning tyres and threw stones at the truck, he said.
The students will appear in court today.