University closed for next two days for further engagements
As students shut down NMMU yesterday, acting vice-chancellor Dr Sibongile Muthwa endorsed the fight for free tertiary education for the poor. Muthwa spoke to a group of protesting students at the south campus yesterday afternoon.
“My own position, as acting vice-chancellor, is to work out a strategy to lobby for an outcome regarding free education,” she said.
“We will join you in support and endorse student demands for free higher education for the poor.”
Hours later, it was announced that the university would be closed today and tomorrow.
Chaotic scenes played out on NMMU’s south campus after protesting students gathered at a traffic circle in University Way early in the morning.
Students burnt a tyre and some branches in the street leading to the campuses in Summerstrand before hearing Muthwa speak.
The 300-strong group then attempted to gather more support as they made their way to the on-campus residences before going to The Kraal, the university’s cafeteria and recreational area.
Student Representative Council president Nicholas Nyati, who addressed students at The Kraal, said the protest was meant to create awareness surrounding their fight for free education for the poor.
He said the protest was not about Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s fees announcement on Monday, but student funding.
Nzimande announced that universities could go ahead with fee hikes for next year‚ capped at 8%. Nyati said the group wanted all NMMU staff to join them and would only meet with the university’s management today to hand over a memorandum.
But he said they would only meet the university’s management after they were fed and all staff agreed to join their protest.
“We have two demands which they must agree to first,” he said. Students were invited to voice their concerns after Nyati addressed the crowd.
Several called for all Bay residents to join the protest. Others suggested the protest should move near the airport or Summerstrand businesses to garner more attention.
First-year LLB student Lawrence Lwanga, 19, said he felt NMMU management offered a vague response to their demands.
“The main thing I picked up from their response today is that they are neither here nor there, telling us they support us in principle but not willing to be in the street showing solidarity with us.”
First-year BCom law student Lihle Ndabula, 18, said he doubted NMMU management had taken their demands seriously.
Spokeswoman Zandile Mbabela said NMMU would be closed today and tomorrow to give more time to engage with students.
“Engagements between NMMU management and students [yesterday] were inconclusive and as such we are of the view that resuming university operations for the next two days would not be a viable option,” she said.