Court orders UFH to re-open
By Khuthala Nandipha
The University of Fort Hare in East London, Bisho and Alice campus evicted all students and shutdown all academic activities on Thursday. In a leaked document, Vice Chancellor Professor Sakhele Buhlungu requested assistance from Private Order Policing Services (POPS) in ensuring that all campuses are empty by the end of the day. This follows weeks of student mass movement in order to get the attention of management and government on various matters, including recent fatalities and student debt.
Over the weekend, the university’s SRC obtained a high court order which effectively renders the forced evacuation to be immediately halted. Students who come from deep rural areas were left homeless, literally sleeping on the streets of Alice of the weekend as they could not afford alternative accommodation and transport.
The court also ordered management to withdraw the assistance of the South African Police Services (SAPS) and POPS. The students were also urged to refrain from violent protests and return to varsity whilst the SRC continues to engage the University on the matters of concern.
Since the beginning of the protests in February, eleven students were arrested for pelting motorists, the POPS as well as for damage to property. The SRC lamented what they call a ‘deafening silence’ by Buhlungu as the institution mourns the death of two students who were friends, stabbed to death one week after another. The Premier of the province, Lubabalo Mabuyane also lashed out at the VC for not taking any action following these incidents.
Yonela Boli, a student, was stabbed to death by a fellow student who was his partner. She is currently in court. A week later, the eye witness to the incident, Olwethu Tshefu was stabbed to death by a contracted staff member at the Alice campus. Another student was raped by a local politician and the case is currently in court.
“The continuous disruptions of university activities have placed our University staff, students, contractors and properties at risk. We regret having to take this action, but we will not allow any deviations from this instruction,” said Buhlungu.
The students are also striking against the financial exclusion of at least 7 000 students who have historical debt in a previously disadvantaged institution. “When you apply militancy on students, you're inviting trouble. We will shut down all the processes in the institution until the injustices caused by our arrogant management are corrected. We cannot continue like all is well when the poor black youth is excluded and discarded to go and waste away in the rural areas,” said SRC President James Nqabeni.
Meanwhile, the Executive Council of the Eastern Cape Provincial government took a decision to open its purse and find funds that were earmarked for skills levy, skills development, training and bursaries that are still available to attend to the student debt problem.
“We will engage the leadership, stakeholders of all universities and TVET colleges to get the details of the students owing universities, especially those that are in the missing middle and some students that did not qualify for the NFSAS assistance” said the Premier’s Spokesperson, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha.
There is a planned campus focused Campus Safety plan to protect students, employees of the institution, workers representing service providers. It will involve all law enforcement agencies of government.