#FeesMustFall: Anger and uncertainty reigns at NMMU after SASCO shutdown

JULY 12, 2016

Anger, frustration and uncertainty characterised the conversations on social media on Monday in the absence of a clear message from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) with regards to whether its North Campus will be open for academic business on Tuesday following a shutdown by the South African Students' Congress (Sasco).

Many students are due to write their exams on Tuesday and Wednesday after they were postponed because of the Eastern Cape taxi strike in June.

The university on Monday afternoon released at statement saying; "The safety of our staff and students will always be a key priority. With this is mind, and coupled with the need to start the second semester, management has been engaged all day with various groups towards seeking solutions to the many #FeesMust Fall student and staff related issues raised.

"One of the biggest concerns following the 1 July insourcing of security personnel into the employ of NMMU is that the security points at the University are currently not adequately staffed.  NMMU management has been engaged with union and task team representatives in an attempt to resolve this unsatisfactory security situation. Without the committed and comprehensive presence of protection service employees around our campuses, the safety and security of staff, students and facilities is compromised.
 
"Unfortunately, the various engagements could not be concluded today and will therefore continue tomorrow [Tuesday]. Management is determined to do all it can to get these matters resolved  so that the academic project can continue.  
We thank you for your patience and will keep you informed of ongoing developments."
However, many students voiced their frustration saying that the institution had neglected to say whether it will be open for business on Tuesday. Until late on Monday night and early on Tuesday, students were still asking on Twitter and on Facebook whether they should pitch up for their classes.
SASCO, which began the shutdown, was also silent on whether they would allow academic business to resume.

According to a statement posted on the SASCO NMMU Facebook page, the protest resulted from an assessment made regarding issues that affect the general student populace‚ children of the working class in particular‚ and exploited workers at the university in relation to the #FeesMustFall campaign of last year.

Read the full statement below:

The South African Students’ Congress has, after assessing the political situation on campus decided that it is necessary for students of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to embark on a mass protest. This decision is informed by an assessment which we have made regarding issues that affect the general student populace, children of the working class in particular and the exploited workers within the university.

Starting from the time when fees were declared as “fallen” and outsourcing announced as a thing of the past at NMMU, the South African Students’ Congress has been actively involved in overseeing and directing the implementation of the Council resolutions of November 21, 2015 through active participation in Task Teams appointed by Council. The NMMU Council appointed these Task Teams in line with the demands advocated by the ?#‎FeesMustFall? campaign. These demands spoke on student financing, insourcing of service workers and the decolonisation of the current curriculum content.

Council Resolved as Follows:
With regards to Student Financing;

• Debt relief for all NSFAS students with zero-EFC (expected family contributions);
• Debt relief for all NSFAS-eligible students with outstanding balances;
• Debt relief for students falling in the ‘missing middle’ income brackets who are academically deserving;
• Removal of the requirement for upfront payment for students falling in the ‘missing middle’ income bracket;
• To lift the threshold of qualification for financial assistance

With regards to insourcing of service workers;

• Across the board minimum wage guaranteed to each service worker of R5000 per month cost to company;
• The new minimum wage level will come into effect on 1 December 2015 until service workers in key sectors are in-sourced;
• During the university shut-down period, such workers will continue to receive the same level of pay and benefits;
• Study benefits currently available to NMMU permanent staff will be available to all service workers employed in outsourced companies;
• Staff currently employed in outsourced services will have access to university clinic services for medical treatment;
• Council furthermore commits the University management to immediately work with representatives of organized labour, students and workers employed in outsourced companies at NMMU on a process towards in-sourcing contracts of service workers. These steps must include, among others, possible renegotiation of current contracts without putting job security at risk and limiting financial losses, and phasing in-sourcing of service contracts from the beginning of 2016.
• Across the board minimum wage guaranteed to each service worker of R5000 per month cost to company.

Our quest for total transformation of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, to make it a true reflection of Madiba’s legacy, has not gone without challenge by the backward white conservative arrangement in the university. The arrangement has aligned itself within all levels of management. This arrangement has been deliberately derailing us from the strides we have taken by undermining the above mentioned Council resolutions. We have seen attempts to propel financial and academic exclusions by denying a number of students, book and food allowances, debt relief for the second semester intake, withholding examination results and the eviction of students in residences especially in accredited off-campus residences e.g. Kings, South Point, The Digs etc.

The deliberate delaying of insourcing, in order to demotivate workers, are attempts to weaken even SASCO as a transformation tool. The forced suspension of SASCO leaders, including our chairperson, does not come as a surprise to us as an organisation. The work of this counter-progressive block is in line with an agenda of maintaining white dominance over the university and protecting the profits of private businesses that continue to exploit both poor workers and students, doing so under the name of the university that is named after a liberation hero and struggle stalwart.

As the South African Student Congress we are dissatisfied with both how the insourcing project and financing of needy students are being carried out under the influence of the counter-progressive. Below is a summary of our dissatisfactions: 

• Students are unable to add modules for second semester due to outstanding funds of the first semester.
• A number of deserving students were denied Book & Food allowances because of an ambiguous threshold of qualification that was not made in consultation with student leaders. 
• Student results are withheld making it a mission for students to be able to know whether they will be continuing with the module into the second semester or not. The release of results will make it possible for students to apply for bursaries lifting the financial burden. 
• The university management has denied disadvantaged students who will be coming in at the 2nd semester the opportunity to receive debt relief as mandated by council.
• Students that entered the system through debt relief are being evicted by residences and their properties are being confiscated in other residences.
• Activists who dare challenge this injustice are being suspended by the university without going through any disciplinary processes as per university policy.
Workers(Security)
• The university says its insourcing workers but still denies them basic benefits as did by the last employer. Meaning that the master is changing, but the oppression remains.
• Security are forced to wear demeaning uniform discriminating them from other members of the security department. This further entrenches differences between white and black workers.
• The oppressive white administrators are also being insourced to continue with their oppression under the new employment arrangement.
• The university wage increases are below the minimum increase agreed upon of 6%.
• Security that participated in earlier protests are being victimized and some have been illegally dismissed.

It is for these reason that we call for the people’s camp to reconvene and collectively advance its power and defend the gains we have made thus far.

A memorandum containing all our demands will be handed over to university management on the 12 July as the protest commences. We are aware that some students are supposed to be writing examinations on the 12th and 13th, we will make an arrangement with the university to move these examinations to the end of the week. This will give students ample time to prepare.

We urge all students and workers to join the protest and pledge solidarity with those subjected to suffering by this system of injustice. We also urge those who will be participating in the mass action to reframe from violence and intimidation. In organised action we will see victory!

Aluta Continua Hasta La Victoria Siempre, Amandla!
Issued by 
SASCO NMMU

Watch video of the shutdown courtesy of ArenelM  Youtube channel;

Image courtesy of Madibaz Radio via Twitter.