By SINO MAJANGAZA, ZOLILE MENZELWA and SIMTHANDILE FORD
University of Fort Hare students in East London yesterday intensified their fight for accommodation when they shut down the campus.
They have also threatened to stage sit-ins from today to put pressure on management to resolve the accommodation impasse with speed.
Meanwhile, at the Alice campus, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) gave management seven days to respond to their demands for salary increases, a housing allowance increase, and upgrades to infrastructure and security. The union has threatened to embark on a strike if their demands are not met.
The move to shut down the East London campus was taken during a mass meeting yesterday morning.
Students have not been attending lectures since last week, demanding the university provide accommodation for more than 400 registered students who still have nowhere to stay.
UFH spokesman Khotso Moabi said the management had over the the past week engaged with the SRC in a process to resolve the impasse over accommodation.
“Discussions continued throughout [yesterday] while a reconciliation and verification process was taking place in the residence department.
“The discussions adjourned to allow the parties to report to their constituencies and both parties have committed to meet tomorrow [today] to discuss practical steps towards the resolution of the impasse,” he said.
Moabi said the management wished to apologise to staff and students who had been affected by yesterday’s events, where staff were physically removed from their workstations. “Management is committed to ensuring the security of staff and students.
“In this regard, the SRC has given an undertaking to speak to its constituency to refrain from physically accosting and harassing staff members during their stay-away.”
Campus premier Kwanele Ntantala said the students agreed they would not go back to class until the accommodation issue had been sorted out.
“This is not a new issue. We raised it with management last year.
“We even specified that an extra 200 to 250 beds were needed by the beginning of this year.”
When the Daily Dispatch arrived on campus just before noon yesterday, students were singing in the corridors of the main building, in what some described as an attempt to remove staff from campus.
A group of staff members were later seen moving out the main building and into another one opposite it.
SRC campus secretary Ahlomile Mafu said student also agreed to embark on sit-ins.
“Students said as of [today] they will occupy every office in this campus. That will happen until the issue is resolved. We cannot relax while our fellow students are without accommodation,” she said.
Meanwhile, NTEU branch secretary-general Luyanda Mema said: “We demand a 12% salary increase across-the-board. Coupled with this demand is a demand for a yearly 5% notch increment between notches. We demand the immediate abolishment of the 25% pension fund [employee] contribution.”
Mema said employees demanded a R1500 monthly housing allowance.
He complained about lax security in campuses.
He said an overhaul of the lecture halls, science and computer labs among other academic infrastructure was needed.
“Academics cannot continue to lecture in venues as dilapidated as the ones we find in our university,” he said.
Attempts yesterday to get a response from Mawande Mrashule, also a UFH spokesman, about the situation on the Alice campus, did not draw a response.
— firstname.lastname@example.org/ email@example.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org