Bomb thrown at varsities, says bishop
The pandemonium at campuses around the country could have been avoided if university councils had been decisive on the minister’s decision to increase fees by up to 8% for next year‚ according to the chairman of the Bench Marks Foundation‚ Bishop Jo Seoka.
“It is hard to fathom that a black government can throw a bomb at the universities by expecting them to deal with the vexed issue of fee increments‚ when it is the ruling party that ascended to power with loud promises of free education‚” Seoka said yesterday.
“The timing was badly calculated considering the rising tension in the country caused by many matters ranging from corruption to the undermining of the rule of law by the political elite led by President Jacob Zuma.”
He said the violence that had been witnessed resulted from “notably badly trained police who appear to be trigger-happy‚ as was seen in the Marikana massacre where 34 striking miners were mercilessly mowed down by the state organ which is meant to enforce peace and justice”.
Over the weekend a fire was started at a basement entrance of the main administration building at Rhodes university.
Police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender said a case of arson was being investigated.
Meanwhile, NMMU, which to date has seen no incidences of violence, will be closed again today following a joint mass meeting on Saturday where it had been hoped a solution would be found.
Hundreds of students, parents and staff members gathered at the NMMU south campus indoor sports centre on Saturday.
The university’s Student Representative Council had called the meeting in an attempt to thrash out differences and find a way forward regarding the university’s closure.
The NMMU shutdown today enters its third week.
The meeting took an emotional turn as some students refused to start the meeting, saying there was a misrepresentation of stakeholders as black parents were not present.
NMMU student Lizo Jim said students felt intimidated.
“We are being intimidated by white parents while our poor black parents are not here as they cannot afford to travel.”
Parents were then asked to leave the meeting.
The meeting intended to discuss solutions was chaired by religious leaders and representatives of the South African Council of Churches, including the Reverend Ken Carr of the Methodist Church and Pastor Neville Goldman of the Ebenezer International Church.
Church leader Afrika Mhlophe said the church had been called in to act as a mediator between students, parents and management.
“We were not aware of the differences between students and this is one of those unexpected dynamics. The meeting did not go as expected but we are prepared to see each group individually and do our best to act as [mediator] in resolving these issues,” Mhlophe said.
The NMMU #FeesMustFa ll movement and the SRC, once a united front, have since parted ways, with SRC president Nicholas Nyati saying they had differences of opinion when it came to the methods chosen in achieving the goal of free education.
During Saturday’s meeting, the students appeared divided on whether or not the university should resume lectures.
One student, who did not give a name, said: “It’s immoral for people to pretend students are just burning tyres for fun.Can we please listen to the suffering of students. “Because what we are finding is that students are suffering through the suggestions of government and the institution.”
While some students were resolute that the shutdown would continue, other students held banners that read: “Fees must fall but studies must not stall.”
A group of students held a night vigil last night ahead of today’s protest action. – Additional reporting TMG Digital