State must clear historical debt, says Rhodes

Rhodes University management said yesterday it supported student demands for free education for the poor, but warned the government needed to come up with the money to clear historical debt.

Responding to a list of demands from fees protesters, management said in a statement read to more than 500 students that the institution was in a fragile financial state and had no money left to deal with the problem.

It said the university was unable to clear outstanding fees of R147-million and historical debt of R226-million without assistance from the government.

Responding to the demands, Rhodes vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela called on the government to provide a platform of engagement for universities to try and resolve the national crisis.

Rhodes will remain closed today but hopes to resume lectures tomorrow.

Rhodes media liaison officer Catherine Deiner said the university’s teaching programme would remain suspended today to allow meetings between role-players to take place.

“We are working towards resuming formal teaching on Wednesday [tomorrow],” Deiner said.

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