Irate parents consider court action

Association formed to force crisis-hit NMMU to reopen doors

Angry parents of NMMU students affected by the #FeesMustFall protests are taking legal action against the institution. Dozens of parents and students gathered at the German Club in Lorraine last night to discuss a way forward with a case of mandamus (which forces a person or institution to perform a public or statutory duty) as they say the university has failed to honour the rights of non-protesting students.

An association – Captu (Concerned Association of Parents and Others for Tertiary Education at Universities) – has been formed to compel the university to reopen its doors within 24 hours of receiving a letter of demand from the association which will be delivered to management tomorrow.

Should the university fail to comply with the list of demands by Tuesday, Captu will launch an urgent application to take it to court.

The parents were led by prominent Port Elizabeth advocate Terry Price, who drew up an online petition two weeks ago.

The petition has since been signed by more than 4 500 parents and students.

Price said he was acting as a concerned parent. This comes after Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s controversial decision on fee increases.

Wheeldon, Rushmere and Cole senior director Brin Brody, who will be heading the case, said: “The first thing we ask for is that the application be heard as a matter of urgency.”

“Courts don’t allow you to readily go to court unless it is urgent. The urgency in this matter is the pending exams – and the fact that if you go past a tipping point the university is going to close, which would mean the end of the academic year. ”

“The second order we will ask for is that the university open its doors within a day or two.”

Brody also said that the university should take steps to ensure the safety of students and staff by protecting the property by employing security staff and, if need be, calling the police to assist.

The estimated cost of the proceedings would be R200 000, which would require each parent to pledge R100.

Tempers flared as Brody opened the floor for discussion, with many parents expressing their concern about the success of legal action.

Robert Griebenow, 49, of Despatch, said he had saved for 20 years to ensure that his son attended university.

“My son’s privilege to study is now being taken away from him, which should not be allowed,” Griebenow said.

Another concerned parent, Jim Foot, 59, of Walmer, who has one child at NMMU and another at Rhodes University said: “It is an unacceptable situation where you have a very small number of people holding society at ransom.”

“I think it is very seriously prejudicial to parents and existing students.”

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