Court orders parties to report back next week on progress of negotiations
A group of concerned parents who resorted to court in a bid to force NMMU to resume its academic activities yesterday reached an agreement with the university to try to resolve their differences through a mediator.
The agreement, which was made an order of court, requires NMMU to employ the services of an independent mediator to engage all stakeholders, including the SRC, the university council, #FeesMustFall, Sasco, EFF Student Command and the NMMU Black Stokvel-Marikana in an effort to resolve the impasse which had led to the closure of the university.
The institution has been closed for several weeks as a result of fees protests.
The concerned parents launched an urgent application this week in which they sought to force NMMU and its acting vice-chancellor, Dr Sibongile Muthwa, to resume academic activities and normal business operations within 48 hours; use private security companies or police to prevent illegal activity by protesting students; obtain an interdict against protesting students in the event of ongoing illegal activity, and enforce the student disciplinary code.
NMMU gave notice it would oppose the application and arrived at court yesterday with a team of lawyers armed with answering papers and ready to argue their case.
But both parties have now agreed to the mediation.
The agreement stipulates that if, by tomorrow, the parties feel that despite constructive engagement, no meaningful progress has been made towards a successful resumption of academic activities, NMMU or the concerned parents group can return to the high court.
Concerned parents group chairman Jacobus Gerber said the written contract read together with the university’s mission statement obliged NMMU to educate its students in a peaceful environment and ensure a quality tertiary education.
But Muthwa said the application was an attempt by the group to usurp the discretionary powers bestowed on NMMU and the vicechancellor.
“Effectively, [the group] asks this court to run NMMU in the midst of the crisis by making a substitution order of the most invasive kind,” she said.
“Remarkably, it does so while accepting that there is a crisis of perhaps unprecedented proportions confronting all universities in South Africa, including NMMU.”
She said the group sought via the court to wish away the crisis and, at the same time, bind the university’s hand in dealing with it.
Judge Sytze Alkema congratulated the parties on their agreement and postponed the matter to October 18 to allow for the mediation and for the parties to report back to court.